Scams tend to increase in times of crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no different. Now, scammers are targeting vulnerable populations with scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Consumers are reporting a variety of vaccine-related scams, mostly around scheduling and paying for the vaccine. Remember: It’s important to remain aware and vigilant and to treat any communication you receive about the vaccine with caution.
To help keep you, your identity, and your finances safe from vaccine-related fraud, we’ve compiled more information on the latest scams, as well as some general fraud protection tips to keep in mind.
COVID-19 vaccine scams to watch out for
The FBI has released a list of current COVID vaccine-related scams to be on the lookout for, including:
- Offers of early access for vaccinations— Scammers may offer early access to a vaccine upon receiving a payment from you.
- Payment requests to put you on the waiting list — Some scammers are asking for money as a deposit to secure your place on the vaccine waiting list. They may pressure you by suggesting you won’t get the vaccination otherwise.
- Medical testing— Some scams are asking people to participate in fake medical trials. This is usually in exchange for the vaccine or a bump up on the waiting list.
- Alternatives to the vaccine— This scam has been around since the start of the pandemic, but it hasn’t gone away, even after the development of real vaccines. Some scammers are still trying to sell fake vaccines they claim to have FDA approval.
- Government officials say you’re next in line— With this scam, someone calls posing as a government official and tells you you’re next on the list for a vaccine. They may ask for payment information or your Social Security Number to verify your identity. In reality, they’re trying to commit identity theft. This one is particularly a risk for those who work in healthcare or older adults who may believe they are being prioritized for vaccinations.
How to protect yourself from scams
1. Be aware of phishing emails
A common type of scam is phishing emails. This involves someone sending an email that appears to be from an official source. It might ask you to click on a link, download something, or it may redirect you to a fake website and ask for login details.
With COVID scams, these emails may look like they’re from your insurance company, medical office, or a COVID vaccine center. Emails like these will often have an aggressive call to action, such as: “Act now before you miss your chance to get the vaccine.”
You should always treat any email like this with suspicion. If you aren’t sure, independently look up the number for the medical office, vaccine center, or insurance company the email is from and call to verify the information.
2. Treat phone calls with suspicion
Another method still popular with scammers is to make calls impersonating a government official, your insurance company, or a vaccine center.
Phone calls come with added pressure, and scammers typically try to talk you into making a decision fast. If you’re unsure, hang up and call back the official phone number on your own to check.
3. Never give out your Social Security Number
Scammers often ask for your Social Security Number or bank information. This is supposedly to “verify your identity.” However, calls like this are almost always fraudulent.
Watch out for any phone calls that say they’re from your insurance company or bank. Any phone calls that suggest your last payment bounced or you need to verify a payment must be checked independently.
Some callers will even say there’s fraudulent activity on your card, and you must hand over personal information to stop it. Don’t give out any information during a surprise call!
It’s important to remain vigilant
These types of scams are not just COVID-specific. Always treat unexpected phone calls or emails that ask for personal details with suspicion.
If you are not 100% sure the email or phone call is genuine, it’s best to walk away and verify it yourself. Even if the call ends up being genuine, it’s always worth checking.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be Netspend and you are unsure if it is Netspend, simply hang up and call us directly at 1-866-387-7363. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.