THURSDAY, March 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) — One lady chatting on the Bumble courting app lately struck up a dialog with a seemingly good man that led to them swapping texts.
“He advised her that he was going to get the COVID vaccine. She expressed her curiosity, and he advised her that she ought to pay him for it and he may get her a spot in line,” mentioned Amy Nofziger, director of sufferer help for the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Instead, the lady reported the rip-off to fraud consultants, who mentioned they’ve heard about a variety of related schemes associated to the COVID-19 vaccination effort within the United States.
Intense demand for COVID vaccinations within the United States, mixed with confusion over how to enroll in one, have created a possibility for con artists to rip-off trusting of us out of hard-earned cash and private data.
“We know scammers observe the headlines, and so they’re simply going to benefit from no matter is well timed,” mentioned Colleen Tressler, senior undertaking supervisor with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education.
Signs of potential scams embody:
- Being requested to pay to get the vaccine.
- Charging a price to achieve early entry to a vaccine or so as to add an individual’s identify to a vaccine ready record.
- Offers by entrepreneurs to promote or ship doses of vaccine for cost.
- Receiving advertisements for vaccines via social media platforms.
- Claims of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a vaccine or therapy of which you have by no means heard.
“There’s no price to doing this,” Tressler mentioned, noting that the vaccine is free to all Americans. “You do not pay to enroll in the COVID vaccine, so anybody who contacts you and asks for a cost to place you on an inventory, to make an appointment for you or reserve a spot in line is a scammer.”
In common, consultants recommend that you simply be in your guard relating to any vaccine provides from unsolicited or unknown sources through e-mail, phone calls or textual content messages.
“Scammers additionally would possibly name folks and supply issues like a COVID-19 equipment or a coronavirus package deal, which actually means nothing. It’s only a pitch,” Tressler mentioned.
Folks needs to be notably be involved if somebody has reached out to them with a proposal and ask for instant cost, notably in the event that they ask for an uncommon type of cost, Nofziger mentioned.
“Criminals will normally ask for types of cost which can be untraceable and just about instant,” Nofziger mentioned. These would possibly embody pay as you go present playing cards from Amazon or different websites, bitcoin or any cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer money switch apps like Venmo or PayPal, and wire transfers.
“No professional vaccine supplier goes to ask for any form of cost and even administrative price with a pay as you go, store-branded present card,” Nofziger mentioned.
Another purple flag is an unsolicited name probing for private data like your Social Security quantity, your Medicare quantity or checking account information, Tressler mentioned.
“If folks get a name from somebody claiming to be related to Medicare and so they ask for this data, we actually encourage folks to hold up as a result of that is not Medicare calling,” Tressler mentioned. “That’s a scammer searching for that private data to make use of it to commit fraud, like id theft.”
Also be apprehensive if the individual is urgent you to behave instantly.
“If there appears to be a way of urgency, simply take a step again,” Tressler mentioned. Before you act, talk about what you have been advised with people — your physician or pharmacist, an elected official, or possibly even household or buddies.
The finest protection for people who find themselves very occupied with getting a COVID-19 vaccine is to be proactive, making calls themselves to well being suppliers, public well being departments and different trusted sources to enroll in their photographs, consultants mentioned.
That means, you are not counting on a mysterious name or textual content from an unknown supply to enroll in your COVID vaccine.
Even right here, although, there is perhaps some worries as a result of professional suppliers would possibly ask to your Social Security quantity or Medicare quantity, to allow them to be reimbursed for administrative prices associated to the vaccine, Nofziger mentioned.
It’s OK to ask the individual why they want that data, and even to name a fraud hotline to verify the request is professional, Tressler and Nofziger mentioned.
“If they’re making the decision to a trusted supply, it is good to ask that query, and in the event that they get a accountable reply then they will transfer ahead,” Tressler mentioned.
Anyone who suspects they’ve been the sufferer of a COVID-19 vaccine fraud ought to name or contact a number of of the next:
- The FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.
- The Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- The AARP Fraud Watch Network at 1-877-908-3360.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has extra about avoiding COVID-19 scams.
SOURCES: Amy Nofziger, director, sufferer help, AARP Fraud Watch Network; Colleen Tressler, senior undertaking supervisor, U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education