Although COVID-19 vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been widely available for some time, scammers continue in their efforts to swindle consumers or steal valuable personal or financial information through vaccine scams.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) recently issued a fraud alert about scams related to COVID-19, many of which involve the vaccine.
Last year, people reported getting emails and text messages asking them to complete a limited-time survey about the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine in exchange for a "free reward," for which they were asked to pay shipping fees. It was a scam. There was no survey and no reward.
The Federal Trade Commission also posts alerts on its webpage – Coronavirus Advice for Consumers – about COVID-19 scams.
- Don't pay to sign up for the vaccine. Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line is a scammer.
- Ignore sales ads for the COVID-19 vaccine. You can't buy it – anywhere, including online pharmacies. The vaccine is only available at federal- and state-approved locations, such as vaccination centers and pharmacies.
- Watch for unexpected or unusual texts. Don't click on links in text messages – especially messages you didn't expect. If your health care provider or pharmacist has used text messages to contact you in the past, you might get a text from them about the vaccine. If you get a text, call your health care provider or pharmacist directly to make sure they sent the text. Scammers are texting, too.
- Don't open emails, attachments, or links from people you don't know, or that come unexpectedly. You could download dangerous malware onto your computer or phone.
- Don't share your personal, financial, or health information with people you don't know. No one from a vaccine distribution site, health care provider's office, pharmacy, health insurance company or Medicare, will call, text, or email you asking for your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number to sign you up to get the vaccine.
The FTC also warns consumers who purchase fake COVID-19 vaccination cards or negative test results are engaging in illegal activity and also putting themselves at risk for identity theft.
Report COVID-19 vaccine scams to the FTC online, reportfraud.ftc.gov.