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Coronavirus

Be careful what you share if you’re searching for a vaccine appointment

For quite a while, Covid-19 vaccines were only available to seniors. Now, more states are lifting age restrictions and most adults can sign up for that much-needed shot. Tap or click here for insider tech tips for scheduling your COVID-19 vaccination.

Unfortunately, demand currently outweighs the supply — which means scammers are swarming out of the woodwork. Now, we’re seeing “vaccine hunter” websites, forums and social media groups pop up left and right. On the surface, they’re all about teamwork. They promise to help you find open appointments and local vaccine doses.

Although some of these sites are legitimately helpful, many don’t have your best interests at heart. In fact, some sites may even want to mine your personal information. If you aren’t careful, you might fall for phony vaccines or other cons.

First, watch out for copycat sites

When you’re browsing the web, always make sure you’re using a legitimate vaccine availability website. For instance,  VaccineFinder.org is such a helpful resource that the CDC promotes it. You can also scan the vaccine providers’ database like CVS or Rite Aid, which keeps you up-to-date on availability.

There’s just one problem: Bad actors are creating copycat sites to trick you. They’ll design their own websites to look exactly like legitimate government websites.

They may even use SEO tactics to place their websites above the real ones in search engines. After all, people usually click the top result when they’re looking for something. Then, once you’re on this fake website, you’re ripe for the taking.

One minute, you may be scrolling down what you think is a legitimate vaccine website. Next thing you know, it’s asking for payment. And malware may already be downloading itself into your device.

That’s why you should always double-check the website URL. Scammers may have the same URL as the official website … only the URL is one letter off. Polish off your glasses and always take a moment to see you’re on the right site, especially before entering personal data.

Thankfully there is a new tool that can help. If you suspect a site could be malicious, enter its URL into SiteCheck and it will scan it for malicious code. Tap or click here to find out how to use this handy tool.

Next, keep these facts in mind

Always be careful when you’re clicking on links or sharing personal information. Also, don’t trust anyone saying they sell vaccine doses. That’s a surefire sign of a scam, so if someone pings you through Facebook Messenger saying they have a vaccine from China, don’t fall for it.

One good rule of thumb is to carefully research any vaccine offers you come across. If something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably fake.

Additionally, if you hear anything wild or out of left field, head to an official news source. If government accounts aren’t sharing that information, you guessed it. It’s likely a trick designed to steal your money.

  • Always use public health websites and approved providers: Earlier, you learned how to recognize fake sites. Make sure you stick to the professional providers since vaccines aren’t available any other way. For instance, use a local pharmacy or public health department.
  • You should never pay to get the vaccine: The U.S. government covers the cost of COVID vaccines. Since it’s a matter of public health, you don’t have to pay a dime.
  • Don’t pay to join a waiting list: Some con artists are preying on people who want the vaccine by charging for appointments. Even worse, they’re fake, so people are paying for something that doesn’t exist.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t buy vaccines from the Dark Web. You may think it goes without saying, but shady sellers are handing out vaccines with price tags ranging from $250 to $1,200. Tap or click here for the full story behind black market COVID-19 vaccines.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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