By Heather McKinney~
One light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is the distribution of various vaccines. Beware, though — scammers and fraudsters are attempting to use this breakthrough for their own financial gain.
County health services require qualified residents to sign up for vaccines via an online form or over the phone. The county health service will then follow-up with a confirmation email, text, or phone call. Though these calls, texts, and emails are legitimate, scammers have been conducting “phishing” schemes wherein they pretend to be distributors of the vaccine in an attempt to steal personal information or sell fake vaccines.
The FBI has been following an influx of these schemes in connection with the vaccine rollout. Below are some ways to separate scammers from legitimate communication.
If you filled out an online form with your county health service or applied over the phone, the county has all the personal information about you it needs. You will receive a call or email specifically from the county health service asking you to make an appointment when it is time to do so.
The county DOES NOT need your social security number, Medicare number, bank account number, or credit card information. If someone claiming to be with the vaccine rollout asks for any of this personal information, hang up and contact the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) Vaccine Registration Hotline at 469-749-9900.
The federal government is providing the vaccine to willing citizens free of charge, and there are guidelines as to who gets the vaccine and in what order. There is no way to pay for a vaccine or increase your position on a waiting list.
Likewise, vaccine manufacturers ship doses directly to the government for distribution. The FBI reports some scammers have offered to directly send doses of the vaccine to consumers upon payment of a fee or deposit.
Scammers have also been attempting to sell “tickets” to vaccination appointments via the online ticketing website EventBrite. Ignore these! Your local county health service is the only place that will make appointments for your vaccine and it will never charge an admission fee.
Scammers have also been using unsolicited advertisements promising a COVID-19 test, cure, or vaccine on social media, website ads, via email, or even through unsolicited phone calls. Just like snake oil salesmen in the Wild West, these scammers are attempting to profit off ineffective and dangerous “remedies.”
According to the DCHHS, these four companies produce authorized COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca. Any other companies promising quick fixes for COVID-19 — or pushing unauthorized vaccines — are attempting to take advantage of the public’s interest in treatment.
If you have been targeted by these schemes, report the incident to the FBI online at ic3.gov or tips.fbi.gov or call 1-800-CALL-FBI. You can also report vaccine scams to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services online at tips.hhs.gov or via phone at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.