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|Be Aware of Emerging COVID-19 Scams
|Several government agencies have issued a bulletin warning of a new type of COVID-19 scam. Along with the previously reported scams involving personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing, and economic stimulus payments, fraudsters are now leveraging the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the bulletin, victims are being coerced to make an out-of-pocket payment for the vaccine and provide personally identifiable information with a false promise to move their name up on the list of vaccine recipients.
The FBI warns of the following potential indicators of fraudulent activity:
1. Advertisements or offers for early access to the vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee
2. Requests asking for out-of-pocket payment to obtain the vaccine or be added to the COVID-19 vaccine waiting list
3. Offers to provide additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining the vaccine
4. Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee
5. 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 eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine
6. Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified
7. Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, websites or unsolicited/unknown sources
8. Unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or personal contact from someone claiming to be a government official requiring you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine
Tips to avoid COVID-19 vaccine-related fraud:
1. Consult your state’s health department website for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution channels.
2. Check the FDA’s website (fda.gov) for current information about vaccine emergency use authorization.
3. Consult your primary care physician before undergoing any vaccination.
4. Don’t share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.
5. Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for any suspicious claims and promptly report such information to your health insurance provider.
6. Follow guidance from the CDC and other trusted medical professionals.
General techniques for online/cyber fraud prevention:
1. Verify the spelling of web addresses, websites, and email addresses that look trustworthy but may be imitations of legitimate websites.
2. Ensure operating systems and applications are updated to the most current versions.
3. Update anti-malware and anti-virus software and conduct regular network scans.
4. Do not enable macros on documents downloaded from an email unless necessary and only after ensuring the file is not malicious.
5. Do not communicate with or open emails, attachments, or links from unknown individuals.
6. Never provide personal information of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
7. Use strong two-factor authentication, using biometrics, hardware tokens, or authentication apps.
8. Disable or remove unnecessary software applications.
If you believe you are a victim of a COVID-19 scam, report it to the FBI at www.ic3.gov; wwwtips.fbi.gov; or 1-800-CALL-FBI.