Scams involving COVID-19 vaccine surge, experts say

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With the COVID-19 vaccine being made available to more and more people, authorities say scams involving it have surged.

It often begins with a phone call.

Although the voice on the other end will claim it’s about the vaccine – it’s not.

“They’re just trying to steal your money or your personal information,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

Janice Gach told CBS News she got one of those calls supposedly from a local health department about her vaccination appointment.

But, when the caller wanted her to spell her name – it sent up a red flag.

“I said ‘you should have my name,’ I mean, you’re getting in touch with me about the vaccine,” she told the caller.

Gach had seen enough warnings to know it was a scam and she hung up before getting burned.

Those who track these kinds of scams say criminals aren’t just working the phones.

The intense demand for COVID-19 vaccinations has created endless opportunities for the bad guys.

“Be wary of anybody texting you, emailing you or contacting you though social media,” said Stein.

Other vaccine red flags to be wary of:

  • Offers to sell or ship the vaccine
  • Vaccine ads via social media
  • Approval claims for an unknown vaccine
  • Charging an access fee for the vaccine

Authorities are also warning about counterfeit vaccines.

Earlier this week, Mexican customs agents seized thousands of vaccines purporting to be from Russia.

They said criminals were trying to export vials of the “Sputnik 5” COVID-19 vaccine which the manufacturer said were fakes.

Law enforcement says you can’t buy the vaccine online or through third parties.

“The vaccine is not something that can be sent through the mail and administered at home,” said Stein.

Your best safeguard is to ignore those vaccine offers.

“When someone calls you on the phone, be very suspicious and don’t give out any information,” said Gach.

If you’ve lost money to these scammers, you need to report it.

You can call the Stein’s office at office 877-5-NO SCAM or use this link to file a complaint.

The Federal Trade Commission is taking an active part in trying to stop COVID-19 related scams. You can use this link to report fraud.

The U.S. Department Of Health and Human Services has a COVID Fraud hotline available here.

The FBI has also been tasked with investigating COVID-19 fraud cases that take place over the internet. The link for that agency’s resource can be found here.

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