RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With booster shots becoming more prevalent, there are warnings about fake vaccine surveys supposedly are from drug companies offering you a hefty prize if you complete the survey.
Law enforcement says it’s just a multi-pronged scheme working on several levels to steal your information and make it easier for criminals to defraud the system.
Thousands of us are getting an email or text asking us to take a vaccine survey that, in this case, is going to pay you cash.
How much cash is unclear.
A survey Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia received says in its subject line there’s a $50 gift card in it for you. But the body of the email says it’s a prize with a minimum value of $90.
When you open the email, you get a graphic that claims you’re getting an exclusive offer up to $100. That graphic then starts a countdown clock giving you seven minutes trying to pressure you to begin taking the survey.
“People are thinking they’re paying for a shipping fee,” said Stephanie Garland of the Better Business Bureau. “But, victims are finding out that they’re billing much more than just a shipping fee and they’re not sending a product.”
If you look closely at the sender of the survey – you can tell it’s a scam.
In the one that Sbraccia received, he found out it’s not really from Pfizer by hovering his cursor over the email address. It shows it’s a Pfizer dot com email but some hijacked address.
It’s not just Pfizer being targeted. There are fake surveys for all the vaccine makers circulating online.
The FBI says it knows what the scammers are doing with the information they collect.
“If they confirm they received the vaccine, and provide their name, address, date of birth, the lot number of the vaccine, the bad actors can use that to commit health care fraud,” said FBI special agent Bryan Vandeun.
He says scammers use the information they glean from the fake surveys to submit claims to Medicare, Medicaid, or a health care insurer.
The only ones benefitting from the surveys are the scammers, not you or the drug companies.
Because you are giving up personally identifiable information to scammers in these fake surveys, you are also exposing yourself to identity theft.
If you’ve fallen victim to a survey like that, there are some steps you can take to report it and protect yourself.
If you receive a text message or email claiming to be a COVID-19 vaccine survey and containing a link or other contact information, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721. You can also file an online complaint form.
If you believe you may have entered information into a fraudulent website, you can find resources on how to protect your information here.
Because these phony surveys are using phishing techniques, they are common among schemes trying to obtain your personal information.
You can learn more about how phishing works and how to protect yourself here.