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Authorities warn public to be on the lookout for COVID-19 vaccine scams

Authorities warn public of COVID-19 vaccine scams
Authorities warn public of COVID-19 vaccine scams(FBI)
Updated: Jan. 5, 2021 at 11:31 AM CST
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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.

Authorities warn public of COVID-19 vaccine scams
Authorities warn public of COVID-19 vaccine scams(FBI)

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.govtips.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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