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Avoiding Online Vaccine Scams

Avoiding Online Vaccine Scams

As more vaccines roll out during 2021, this has given rise to scammers trying to get personal information from people. Health scams are not new, and most “vaccine scams” that are popping up use the same common tactics as they have in the past to trick people into giving vital information. It’s important to be aware of these tactics not only to protect yourself and your family from falling for misinformation but exposing your identity to would-be criminals. 

Vaccine scams can occur online through an email or phishing scam, advertisement, or other means. Oftentimes, scammers will try to pose as a source you trust (phishing scam) or as a worthy source of information. According to the FTC:

“Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million to phishing schemes in one year.”

It’s important to protect your identity whenever verifying any information, even from a company you trust.

Here’s What to Look Out For

While the confusion around trying to find a vaccine provider can be daunting, here are a couple of tips to know to help keep you safe from scams:

  • You cannot pay to have yourself put on a list to receive the vaccine sooner.
  • You cannot pay to be granted early access to the vaccine.
  • You are not required to pay out of pocket for a vaccine. Even if you are uninsured, providers are required to give you the vaccine regardless of your ability to pay.
  • Someone offering direct shipment of vaccines to you for payment is trying to scam you. You cannot have the vaccines shipped to you.
  • Calls, emails, text messages, or any communication about vaccines that do not come from a verified source.
  • Any mention of needing bank statements or your social security number in order to get a vaccine should be disregarded.
  • Any source trying to sell a vaccine to you through advertisements or unsolicited messages. 

Where to Find Out About Vaccines

At the time of this writing, vaccines are being distributed to those who meet certain criteria. According to the Texas Health and Human Service those eligible to get the vaccine fall into two categories:

Phase 1A: First to get vaccines is front line health workers and the elderly at long term care facilities

Phase 1B: Is targeted for people who are over the age of 65 or over the age16, and have an underlying condition such as:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Organ transplantation
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

This information and more can easily be found at https://www.dshs.texas.gov/. At this site, you will not only find information on who can get vaccinated but where, and what specific vaccines you will receive. It’s important to note that you should routinely check the DSHS website for updates on Covid-19 vaccination availability and which phase of the rollout we are currently in. 

As a guiding principle, make sure to talk with your state’s health department about where to get a vaccine and use only those methods suggested.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Justice. “FBI Urges Vigilance During COVID-19 Pandemic.” FBI, FBI, 26 Mar. 2020, www.fbi.gov/coronavirus.

Federal Trade Commission. “How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams.” Consumer Information, 27 Oct. 2020, www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams.

Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Health and Human Services. “COVID-19 Vaccine Information.” Texas Department of State Health Services, 2021, www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/immunize/vaccine/.

Khalifa, Yasmeen, et al. “There Are Far More Texans Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine than Doses Available. Here’s What You Need to Know about Getting One.” The Texas Tribune, The Texas Tribune, 23 Dec. 2020, www.texastribune.org/2020/12/23/coronavirus-vaccine-texas/.

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