CONSUMER REPORTS — Waiting to schedule a COVID vaccine can get frustrating. So it’s not surprising that scammers are now preying on people anxious to get a shot. Consumer Reports explains ways to spot scams and has tips to protect yourself from falling victim.
In January, this site, which had a name similar to vaccine maker Moderna, was shut down by authorities and its creators were later arrested, after allegedly trying to sell vaccines for $30 per dose. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
Consumer Reports’ Donna Rosato says “Scammers are feeding off the frenzy of people trying to get a vaccine by offering fake promises of early access to shots and are targeting people by social media posts, emails, texts, online ads, and robocalls.”
Although eligibility is opening up, we’re still months away from every adult having access to the vaccine and it doesn’t appear vaccine fraud will disappear anytime soon.
So, to protect yourself from a vaccine scam, first and foremost, learn how to spot the scams.
Consumer Reports says take a hard pass if you’re asked for money.
“If anyone is asking you to pay to either book an appointment or to get the actual vaccine, it’s a scam. Getting the shot is free and you can’t buy it anywhere. So ignore any emails or pop-up ads charging a fee,” says Rosato.
If you’ve already paid for a vaccine using a credit card, dispute it with your credit card company. Unfortunately, if you used a payment app such as Venmo or Zelle you’re unlikely to get your money back because they don’t offer the same protections as a credit card.
And NEVER ever reveal any of your personal financial information.
Rosato says, “No legitimate place is going to ask you for your social security number, credit card or bank account information in order to get the vaccine. So if you get a call, email or text asking for this, ignore, ignore, ignore.”
New York State has launched a hotline focused on vaccine-related fraud. Residents who suspect fraud in the vaccine distribution process can call 833-VAX-SCAM (833-829-7226) toll-free or email the State Department of Health at STOPVAXFRAUD@health.ny.gov. Hotline staff will route complaints to the appropriate investigative agencies to ensure New Yorkers are not being taken advantage of as the state works to vaccinate the entire eligible population.
Consumer Reports also wants to remind you that while it can take some time, one way to find out how to get a vaccine where you live is to check with your state health department.
In New York State, you can click here for a state-run distribution site. You can also check with your local county health department for weekly vaccination clinics. Select local pharmacies are also vaccinating residents.