How to Avoid Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccine Scams

Don’t fall victim to a COVID-19 vaccine scam.

Criminals and fraudsters will use whatever is in the news, like a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, to try to steal your money. With several different COVID-19 vaccines now available, scammers are trying to take advantage of people who want to get vaccinated. Avoid anyone who claims to have vaccine doses for sale. 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.

How to Recognize and Avoid Coronavirus Vaccine Scams

Officials are warning people to be on the alert for and keep away from vaccine-related scams, including the following.

Beware of Random Individuals Who Offer You a Vaccine

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 healthcare professionals should administer the vaccine, and you should get a vaccine only at an authorized vaccination site.

You Don't Have to Pay for a Coronavirus Vaccine

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.

Don't Pay for Testing Before Getting a Vaccine

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, and says you need a test before getting the shot, it's not true.

Don't Schedule a Vaccine Appointment Through an Unverified Platform

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 Fall for Phishing Scams

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.

Don't Fall for Spear-Phishing Scams Either

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.

Don't Click on Emailed Coronavirus Vaccine Links or Open Attachments

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.

Watch Out for Bogus Coronavirus Treatments or Medicines

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.

Tips to Help You Avoid Coronavirus Vaccine Scams

Here are some tips to protect yourself against coronavirus vaccine scams.

  • Don't give anyone you don't know and trust your Social Security, bank account, credit card numbers, or other personal information. Always be skeptical of requests for personal information that you receive in emails, by text, or over the phone. Thoroughly scrutinize any request before you respond.
  • Scammers will typically try to force a sense of urgency to get you to reveal your personal details quickly before you have time to investigate whether their inquiry is legitimate. Don't fall for this tactic. Take your time and make sure the person asking for the information has a legitimate reason for needing your personal data.
  • If you already provided your credit card, debit card, or your bank account information to a scammer or suspected scammer, report it to your financial institution immediately.
  • Don't open emails from people you don't know. Also, don't open any attachments from senders you don't recognize or in suspicious-looking emails from known contacts. Scammers can easily fake messages to look like they come from legitimate organizations. Check the sender's actual email address, not just the display name, to find out if it came from a genuine source.
  • Install an anti-virus program on your computer, and make sure it's functioning before connecting to the Internet or checking emails.
  • Have a firewall on your computer that prevents hackers from gaining access. A firewall can also block viruses and worms.
  • Scan your computer regularly for viruses and other malicious files, like spyware.

Reporting 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.

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