With vaccination efforts taking longer than anticipated, people who need it the most for protection are becoming impatient. This has lead to the rise of scammers trying to sell fake COVID vaccines. According to warnings from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Better Business Bureau, new ploys are being created to steal money and data from unsuspecting people. Here are the main things you need to watch out for.
“Scammers are really starting to prey on peoples’ hope to get a vaccine soon and quick,” said Sean Herdrick, the communications director at the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona.
Scammers are Peddling Fake Vaccines
Scams have been uncovered on messaging apps such as Telegram, where channels will offer vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca for $110 to $180 apiece, claiming that the sensitive vials will be shipped in ice or can be delivered overnight for a fee, Reuters reports.
What’s worse is that after taking people’s money, many scammers do send counterfeit vials in the mail that don’t contain the actual vaccines. Injecting these fake vaccines can lead to dangerous reactions.
In any case, taking such “vaccines” online is definitely ill-advised as no certified vaccines are sold this way. Pfizer spokesmen have said that “Patients should never try to secure a vaccine online—no legitimate vaccine is sold online—and only get vaccinated at certified vaccination centers or by certified healthcare providers.”
Selling fake vaccines for money is just the tip of the iceberg for many scammers. According to cybersecurity experts, there are also thousands of domains that try to cash in on keywords such as “vaccine” and “Covid-19.” These keyword-rich sites would try to lure in unsuspected visitors and steal sensitive information from them or infect their computers with a virus in exchange for the promise of an eventual vaccine.
Or, as Lindsay Kaye, the director of operational outcomes at Recorded Future puts it, “So far a lot of these domains just appear to be opportunistic registrations, but some are going to be used for phishing attempts to have people click on (malicious) links.”
Fake vaccine waiting lists
Another type of scam involves requests for the victims’ Medicare numbers, credit card information, or other financial information in order to place them on so-called “Covid-19 vaccine waiting lists.” Criminals will then use the information to commit identity theft.
According to the HHS website, “Government and state officials will not call you to obtain personal information in order to receive the vaccine, and you will not be solicited door to door to receive the vaccine.”
The HHS also accent that you “should not respond to, or open hyperlinks in, text messages about COVID-19 from unknown individuals,” and “be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies.”
Frauds are expected to continue
Given that Covid-19 vaccine frauds have been going on for months before the first vaccine was made public, it stands to reason that they will continue to exist.
As the HHS website puts it, “Fraudsters are also continuing to offer COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, the services are unapproved and illegitimate.”
So, what can you do to protect yourself?
The rule of thumb is that any attempt of unsolicited contact in relation to Covid-19 vaccines should be immediately rejected. Instead, contact your local authorities or your medical professional and question them about the availability of Covid-19 vaccines in your local medical facilities.