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FBI warns of COVID-19 vaccine scams

Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 12:58 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - As distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines begins, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning the public to be aware of possible scams.

The first phase of vaccine distribution is underway, which includes frontline healthcare workers and long-term care residents and employees.

“Anybody else outside of those groups is not currently able to receive a vaccine.” Bryan Van Deun, Supervisory Special Agent for the White Collar Crime Squad for the FBI said.

The next phase includes essential workers and those over 75 years of age and older. This group should begin in the coming weeks and when it begins, you should contact your employer or doctor.

“Anyone getting unsolicited emails or phone calls offering the ability to pay for a place in line or to jump to the top of the list to get a vaccine is definitely a scam and not something that should be responded to,” Van Deun said, “Unfortunately when there’s a natural disaster or large scale healthcare issue like this, bad actors are always trying to make money off other people’s misfortune.”

Ways to spot a potential scam include:

  • You are asked to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine.
  • You are asked to pay to put your name on a vaccine waiting list or to get early access.
  • Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources.
  • Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of the vaccine for payment.

Van Deun also recommends checking on your older loved ones, especially right now, as senior citizens are frequent targets and may be more susceptible to falling victim.

“Make sure that they’re not getting unsolicited calls or emails that they’re potentially responding to and providing personal information that could open them up to being a victim of fraud,” he said.

As always, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

To report a scam:

  • Health & Human Services - Office of Inspector General: 1-800-HHS-TIPS I tips.hhs.gov
  • FBI Hotline: 1-800-CALL-FBI I ic3.gov
  • CMS/Medicare Hotline: 1-800-MEDICARE

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