People desperately searching for COVID-19 vaccine appointments may become victims of unscrupulous scammers. The FBI and Interpol warn that swindles such as false cures and vaccines advertised on fake websites are on the rise and could put your health at risk.
According to Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other government agencies say that they have already investigated 96,000 potentially malicious COVID-19 vaccine websites. One of the red flags to look for on these phony websites is if you are asked to pay for services in order to secure a vaccine appointment, said Nenette Day, assistant special agent at HHS.
“There is no legitimate process that requires you to pay for the vaccine or to pay for a spot in order to get the vaccine,” she told Today.
She also said people will need to submit personal information in order to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including date of birth and address, but credit card, social security or other personal information should never be asked for by a supplier.
Another scam to look for may come from a hacked social media platform. Day said that if you get an unsolicited message from a friend telling you that there is leftover vaccine available for a set fee, look the other way and alert your friend that their account may have been hacked.
When searching for information on websites, check for accuracy and accountability, said Day. For example, on one website advertising vaccines, the name Moderna was spelled differently several times. She advises people never to click on links in text messages or emails that are unfamiliar. Always go directly to the website, said Day.
Check the web address for the site offering vaccine appointments. Day said that several of the phony sites her department is investigating have a dot with two letters at the end of their location. For example, .me is the domain used to personalize your online presence, but it is also the country code domain for Montenegro. This could signal a fraudulent site.
“We’ve already seen domains from other countries coming in, saying that they are registering people for vaccination appointments in the United States,” Day said, according to Today. “That’s not true.”
HHS also warns that people should be wary of any phone or door-to-door solicitation offering you a vaccine. Government and state officials do not call to obtain personal information from you to get your vaccine and will certainly never go door-to-door.
Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. Hang up immediately if you receive such a call, said The Philadelphia Inquirer, even if the caller claims that he or she is from your insurance company. Your insurance company will not call to solicit this information.
Also, avoid offers to have the vaccine shipped to your house. “If it’s sounds too good to be true, it is,” said the Inquirer.
If you suspect COVID-19 vaccine fraud, report it immediately online or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477)
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