RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Scammers are using people’s desire to get the COVID-19 vaccine to steal their money or personal information as they clammer for the shots in North Carolina.
It could begin with a phone call that has a recorded message like this one which said:
“You have the chance to avoid anticipated long lines and get a single dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine sent to your home for a onetime payment of $79.99.“
Don’t believe it – it’s a scam.
“Be wary of anyone texting, emailing, or contacting you through social media,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
Among the phony vaccine ploys being used by criminals:
- People asking you to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine.
- Deals to place your name on a vaccine waiting list to get early access.
- Advertisements on social media from unsolicited or unknown sources.
Stein said of those scams, one has risen to prominence in recent days here in this state.
“The biggest scam as related to vaccines is people promising they’ll move you to the head of the line -get you an earlier priority and they can’t do that,” said Stein. “They’re just trying to steal your money or personal information.”
The vaccine is a medication and any offer to let you buy it outright is just trouble.
“It’s nonsense,” said Stein. “You won’t even get a vaccine. The scammers will take your money and send you nothing in return.”
The federal government is also taking steps to crack down on those who sell fake vaccines, tasking the Department of Homeland Security to find those who involved in that scam.
However, many of those criminals are difficult to catch.
“It’s very hard to get your money back from a scammer like this who is pitching snake oil,” said Stein. “Even so, we encourage people to file complaints with our office on the off chance we can get your money back.”
Stein said filing a complaint also helps his office know about the latest variations of the scam, so his office can warn others and protect them from those criminals.
The Federal Trade Commission says at least $77 million was lost to COVID-19 scams last year, but it said the actual figure is probably much greater because those crimes are under-reported.