Don’t Get Pinched by a Vaccination Scam

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Crooks are once again looking to cash-in on the coronavirus pandemic. Depending on where you live, the path to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t a straight one. For some, it’s challenging to figure out how, when, and where to get a shot. The lack of national uniformity in vaccine distribution creates a ripe environment for scams.

What Is a COVID-19 Vaccination Scam?

Fraudsters are making false promises about COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Scammers convince unsuspecting victims to share private information or make a payment in exchange for an alleged vaccination appointment, early access to the vaccine, or even a guarantee to receive a specific vaccine.

Warning Signs

Here are four red flags that a scammer is attempting to make money by spreading false information about COVID-19 vaccine distribution:

Red Flag #1: You’re required to pay to get on a vaccine distribution list.

Fraudsters will claim you need to pay to reserve a spot to receive the vaccine. Or, they may urge you to pay an extra fee to jump ahead of others already on the list. Crooks hope you’re unaware that there’s no cost to schedule a vaccine appointment.

The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to anyone living in the United States. You cannot pay to move to the top of the list.

Red Flag #2: You receive an unsolicited call, text, or email from someone claiming they need to confirm your vaccine appointment.

What typically follows is a request for private data, such as your bank account number or credit card details. This information is not needed to schedule or confirm an appointment.

Red Flag #3: An ad in your social media feed claims you can skip the waitlist and buy the vaccine online.

You can receive the FDA-authorized vaccines only through federal and state-approved locations. This means that you cannot legally or safely buy them online, in-store, or from any retailer.

Red Flag #4: Someone is asking for payment before you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Scammers will claim you must pay for the vaccine if you do not have health insurance. This is false. The COVID-19 vaccine is free regardless of immigration or health insurance status.

How to Protect Yourself from Vaccination Scams

  • Contact your health care provider or local health department (VDH COVID Vaccine response) to learn about COVID-19 vaccine distribution in your area. You can also use VaccineFinder to locate U.S. clinics and pharmacies that offer the FDA-authorized vaccines.
  • Confirm any unexpected text messages or emails you receive regarding your appointment. Call the vaccination provider directly to make sure the message originated from their offices. Avoid clicking on any links or calling the phone numbers listed in the communication. Such links and phone numbers could be direct lines to scammers.

If you suspect a COVID-19 vaccine scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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