COVID-19 vaccine scams: How to spot them and what to do
The caller sounds legit. They say for a small fee you'll be put on a list for a COVID-19 vaccine and they'll make sure you get an appointment, or better yet, you'll be vaccinated.
It's all a scam. Don't believe it. None of that is for sale. Just hang up.
“If you get a call, text, email or even someone knocking on door claiming they can get you early access to the vaccine, hang up, delete or close the door — stop all communication immediately," Westchester County Consumer Protection Director Jim Maisano said. "It's a scam every time.”
Jim Elcik, Director of Consumer Protection for Rockland, said in an email that the vaccination phase system is readily available via the internet but he welcomes calls from people who have questions. Rockland's Consumer Protection Office can be reached at 845-364-3901 or CPLCAL@co.rockland.ny.us
"If I had to give any advice for the folks out there I would advise them that New York State has created a vaccination phase system based upon the priority of a certain demographic or type of employment," Elcik said. "There is no requirement for social security number or financial information in order to get the vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccine is free to all."
To date, there haven't been any reported scam cases in Westchester or Rockland, but both counties and the entire state are hyper vigilant of the situation, especially in these confusing and chaotic times.
How to spot a scam
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission on avoiding vaccine 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.
- Watch for unexpected or unusual texts. Don’t click on links in text messages that you don't recognize or in messages that you didn’t expect.
- 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, or health care payer, like a private 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.
If you think you've been scammed:
- If you're a Westchester resident, call the Westchester Department of Consumer Protection at 914-995-2155 or email them at email@example.com.
- If you know about a COVID-19 vaccine scam, let the FTC know at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- You can also file a complaint with your state attorney general through consumerresources.org, which is the the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.