Authorities warn public to be on the lookout for COVID-19 vaccine scams
LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are warning the public about several new fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines.
Authorities have received complaints of scammers using people’s interest in COVID-19 vaccines to get personally identifiable information (PII) and money through various scams.
The public should be aware of the following potential indicators of fraudulent activity:
- Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee.
- Requests asking you to pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.
- Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine.
- Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee.
- Unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company, or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal and/or medical information to determine recipients’ eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.
- Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified.
- Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources.
- Individuals contacting you in person, by phone, or by email to tell you the government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Tips to avoid COVID-19 vaccine-related fraud:
- Consult your state’s health department website for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution channels and only obtaining a vaccine through such channels.
- Check the FDA’s website (fda.gov) for current information about vaccine emergency use authorizations.
- Consult your primary care physician before undergoing any vaccination.
- Don’t share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.
- Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for any suspicious claims and promptly reporting any errors to your health insurance provider.
- Follow guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other trusted medical professionals.
General online/cyber fraud prevention techniques:
- Verify the spelling of web addresses, websites, and email addresses that look trustworthy but may be imitations of legitimate websites.
- Ensure operating systems and applications are updated to the most current versions.
- Update anti-malware and anti-virus software and conduct regular network scans.
- Do not enable macros on documents downloaded from an email unless necessary and after ensuring the file is not malicious.
- Do not communicate with or open emails, attachments, or links from unknown individuals.
- Never provide personal information of any sort via email; be aware that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
- Use strong two-factor authentication if possible, using biometrics, hardware tokens, or authentication apps.
- Disable or remove unneeded software applications.
If you believe you have been the victim of a COVID-19 fraud, you can report it to the FBI via their websites: ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov, or 1-800-CALL-FBI). You can also contact HHS-OIG at tips.hhs.gov or 1-800-HHS-TIPS.
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