Several government organizations have warned against scammers promising access to the vaccine in exchange for sensitive personal information, as well as companies selling fake treatments promising to cure or prevent Covid-19.
“The FBI has received complaints from con artists using the public interest in COVID-19 vaccines to obtain personally identifiable information and funds through various schemes,” the FBI wrote in a statement to CNN.
The office told CNN it plans to remain vigilant as “crooks continue to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for personal gain.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working to end the sale of unapproved Covid-19 drugs, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent warning letters to seven companies selling products with “scientifically unsubstantiated claims” to cure those infected. .
What people can do to stay safe
Where there is interest and uncertainty, there are bound to be scams. The pandemic is a perfect example.
“It’s certainly not surprising,” Katherine Hutt, national spokesperson for the BBB, told CNN. “In fact, a few weeks ago, as soon as it looked like the vaccine was coming out, we started warning people about these scams. ”
The BBB has a list of recommendations for people to identify these scams. They include checking with your personal physician, ignoring any calls for “immediate action”, and verifying all the information you receive with information from credible information sources.
While 2.9 million doses of the vaccine have been reported in the United States, these are nowhere near what is needed for mass distribution, especially since individuals will need two doses each. In addition, certain groups such as healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities will be given priority before the general public.
“Because we know not everyone will be able to get it right away, there’s this scarcity issue as well,” Hutt said. ” [Scammers] will try to get you to make a decision on the spot, they will tell you that if you don’t act today you will lose the opportunity. You will be asked to make a decision before you have time to think about it. ”
Pandemic scams aren’t new
While news of a vaccine will inevitably lead to more scams, the nefarious programs linked to the pandemic have already been a problem.
Since the start of the pandemic, the FTC has received more than 20,000 complaints about text messages and robocalls offering test kits, fake treatments, and help related to the pandemic. There have also been over 4,000 reports of pet scams during the pandemic.
Scammers often hang on to anything of interest, Hutt points out.
“We know crooks are really good at paying attention to news or pop culture to whatever people are talking about,” she said. Or claiming that if they didn’t give this information now, they would lose their assurance. [Scams] are very topical, depending on what’s going on in the world. ”
Ultimately, the best way to get vaccinated against such predatory patterns is to stay informed.