With several different coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines now available, state and federal officials are working on getting the shots to millions of people across the United States. Of course, scammers have taken notice and are trying to take advantage of people trying to get vaccinated.
Avoid anyone who claims to have vaccine doses for sale or offers you the chance to get the vaccine earlier than you’re scheduled to receive it. Beware of these kinds of solicitations no matter what form they arrive in, such as a phone call, email, text, letter, through social media, or even in person.
If you fall prey to such a scam, the best-case scenario is you’ll lose some money. The worst-case consequence is that you might use a phony product that makes you ill. So, you need to know how to recognize vaccine scams and steer clear of them.
Criminals and fraudsters will use whatever is in the news, like a coronavirus vaccine, to try to steal your money. Officials are warning people to be on the alert for and keep away from vaccine-related scams.
State agencies, local public health agencies, clinics, community partnerships, the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program, and hospitals, like U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and private hospitals, will distribute vaccines. You can't get one from an individual hawking them over the Internet or phone. Some people will get the vaccine through their employer. Any vaccine you get should only be through a licensed medical professional. Most public health departments and state government websites will publish a list of approved COVID-19 vaccine providers.
Definitely don't pay to have the vaccine sent to you directly. Again, only health-care professionals should administer the vaccine, and you should get a vaccine only at an authorized vaccination site.
People in the United States won’t have to pay for a coronavirus vaccine during the pandemic. (Later on, though, it might be a different story.) Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance are required to cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccines. Uninsured people will also get access to free vaccines.
So, beware of anyone offering to sell you a vaccine. You also can't pay to get on a list for a vaccine or get early access to a shot. If someone offers you any of these options, it’s a scam. And you definitely can’t get on such a list or get an expedited vaccine by paying with Bitcoin, gift cards, or some other similar item.
Some scammers are convincing people to pay for a COVID-19 or antibody test before getting a vaccine. If someone contacts you, say, via text, email, or phone, telling you need a test before getting the shot, it's not true.
Don't register to get a COVID-19 vaccine through sites unaffiliated with your health department, pharmacy, or the other entities mentioned above that are legitimately distributing vaccines. Use should avoid platforms like Eventbrite unless you're sure your health department is using it. Some places are using Eventbrite for vaccine appointments, but scammers can also make fake accounts and then charge applicants when making their appointments.
Don't give your bank account information, Social Security number, Medicare number, credit card number, or other confidential information to anyone who contacts you about a vaccine. If you get a call, text, or email, or a person comes to your door and asks for your personal or financial details, withhold the requested information.
Example of a coronavirus phishing scam. You get a call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, and they’re calling to sign you up for the coronavirus vaccine. The scammer asks for your name, address, Social Security number, Medicare number, and maybe your bank account information. This kind of call is a scam; the Social Security Administration, nor any other government agency or anyone else legitimately involved in vaccine distribution, will ask you for this type of sensitive information by phone, email, text, or by coming to your home.
You need to watch out for coronavirus vaccine spear-phishing scams, too. “Spear phishing” is a particular technique used by scammers to get personal information from specific people, like doctors, teachers, and other professionals. It's very similar to phishing. But while phishing is when scammers contact thousands of people randomly and try to get the recipients to divulge personal information, spear phishing is more sophisticated. Instead of sending messages indiscriminately, spear phishing targets specific types of people. The goal is the same, though: To get personal information that can be used or sold. Even if an email or other kind of communication appears to be personalized for you, if it offers any of the bogus vaccine options discussed in this article or seeks your personal information, it’s a scam.
Be especially wary of emails that purport to have vaccine information. Scammers sometimes create and send emails that look like they’re from a legitimate source, like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO), but contain a harmful link. When you click on the link in the message, your device could be infected with a virus, spyware, or other malware. Or you’ll go to an imposter site designed to trick you into giving up your personal information.
To make sure you're going to a legitimate website, check the URL (the website's address) by hovering over the link. Even safer, go to the CDC and the WHO's official websites directly instead of clicking on the link in the email.
Also, don’t open email attachments and be particularly skeptical of .zip and other compressed or executable file types. Don’t send a reply to the email either.
Con artists might try to sell you a bogus coronavirus treatment, medicine, or product that they might claim prevents or cures the coronavirus. Check with your health care provider before you pay for or get any coronavirus-related treatment.
Here are some tips to protect yourself against coronavirus vaccine scams.
If you suspect you're a victim of a coronavirus vaccine scam, contact:
By reporting a scam, you might be able to help someone else avoid becoming a victim.