As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out around the country, many people are understandably anxious to receive the shot. Such a vaccination could be life-saving, especially for older Americans or people with immunocompromising conditions. However, a word of caution: The FBI has recently received a huge uptick in complaints from Americans that they’ve been targeted by vaccine-related scams.
“We continue to work diligently with law enforcement partners and the private sector to identify cyber threats and fraud in all forms,” the FBI wrote in a warning issued this week. The agency warns that scammers are using people’s intense desire to become inoculated to the virus in order to get access to their personal information.
If you receive an email or phone call informing you that you can be placed on a waitlist for the vaccine, take it with a grain of salt. Such a cold call hitting you up for your information is uncommon in the medical field and could be a telltale sign of a scammer. Scammers are using this tactic to pry vital information from victims, such as phone numbers, home addresses, date of birth, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and more.
As a rule of thumb, never share your personal information over the phone or in an email when you’re responding to unsolicited communication. Generally speaking, clinics and hospitals will not have you enter such sensitive information outside of in-person visits.
You won’t be asked to pay out of pocket for a vaccine or to be put on a waiting list. Someone asking for your money for such a measure is likely trying to scam you! An official clinic or hospital will have you pay for treatment through a standard medical billing process that will go through your health insurance.
“Any telephonic or email representation that a COVID-19 vaccination can be provided quickly in exchange for money or personal identifiable information is a scam. If you receive a call like this, you should hang up immediately,” the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office warns.
Any online advertisements or promotions claiming to be willing to send doses of the vaccine in exchange for money are also likely to be scams. Such claims are untrue; vaccines are going to be available in hospitals and authorized clinics, not from shady sellers on social media sites. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.