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Security & privacy

With vaccines on the way, 4 ways scammers are out to get you

When there’s an opportunity to part a victim from their money, scammers will take it. We’ve seen it happen consistently over the last year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not only are scammers capitalizing on phishing and shopping scams, but they’ve also been taking advantage of pandemic-related schemes. For starters, we’ve seen a ton of COVID-19 phone scams in recent months. We’ve also seen lots of job-related scams due to high unemployment numbers.

Now that we’re closing in on a COVID-19 vaccine, government officials expect even more pandemic-related scams to emerge. Here’s what you should watch out for.

New COVID-19 scams

Both the U.S. and Canada are close to approving COVID-19 vaccines. That’s a huge win for public health, but it could also be an opportunity for scammers to develop new ways to prey on victims.

We’ve already seen this kind of predatory behavior with the sale of phony COVID testing kits and treatments. Officials have been cracking down on these phony testing kits, and now they are ramping up efforts to prevent any vaccine-related scams, too.

According to a new scam alert from the BBB, the main concern is selling fake vaccines to consumers who want to protect themselves from COVID. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working with the drug companies developing the vaccines to stop the sale and distribution of phony vaccines, which could be one way that scammers cash in.

There is also concern about scammy companies offering fake cures or preventions for the virus, which prey on desperate people to avoid getting the virus or want to cure it after they do. The Federal Trade Commission has already issued warning letters to several of the companies claiming they had a product for sale that cures or prevents the virus. 

There are other scams that you need to watch out for, too. Fake vaccines and snake oil treatments are just a couple of ways scammers will be trying to cash in on the vaccine.

Phishing attempts are also running rampant. These types of scams are meant to trick you into sharing personal information or passwords. If you do, the scammers will use that information to steal your identity, drain your accounts or open accounts in your name.

There have been tons of these types of scams recently, including some that have scammers impersonating health organizations like the CDC or WHO. These phishing emails use clever tactics to target victims, like messages that claim to have news about COVID-19.

We told you recently about an increase in scams using robocalls to impersonate government officials over COVID. There have also been fake clinical trials and other COVID-related health scams in recent months.

Protecting yourself from COVID vaccine scams

With these new vaccine-related scams, you’ll need to watch out for everything from phony treatments and vaccines to phishing messages. There are some steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers, including:

Research everything carefully.

To avoid these types of scams, you need to make sure you do your homework. Scammers are very creative, so you should always be skeptical of anything that seems too good to be true.

When it comes to vaccines, be sure to double-check any information with official health agencies to determine if what you’re being told is true. You should also be aware that no vaccines can be currently purchased online or in stores.

Check with your doctor on vaccine- or treatment-related information.  

If you want to get a vaccine before they’re widely available, reach out to your healthcare provider to inquire bout your options. You can also check your local health department’s website for more information on vaccine-related news and options.

Don’t get pressured by calls for immediate action. 

Don’t get caught up in the urgency that comes with the vaccines. Focusing solely on getting vaccinated can lead to risky behavior. If you’re being pressured to act now or lose the opportunity, don’t fall for it. It could be a scam.

Double check the URL.

A common tactic used by scammers is to purchase official-looking URLs to trick victims into trusting the links sent out with phishing emails. Be careful when clicking on any links. For example, if you receive an email from a supposed government department, make sure the URL ends in .gov. You can also perform a search for the website before clicking to make sure the source is legit.

For more information on the BBB’s scam warning on vaccine scams, tap here.

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