How to Recognize Fraudulent Sites That “help” Schedule Vaccinations
As the vaccine supply struggles to meet demand, massive social media groups known as vaccine hunters are emerging across the country to help people find and book appointments. As useful as these groups are, they have also become a new favorite target for scammers. Here’s how you can protect yourself.
How Vaccine Hunter Scams Work
Because many states were unable to provide centralized information on where exactly you might get your vaccine orders, vaccine hunter groups stepped in to fill the gap . These groups informally share information about where you can make an appointment, be it at county health sites, pharmacy sites, unofficial pharmacy waiting lists, or individual hospital waiting lists. In good faith, people from these groups often help (usually older) strangers make an appointment for vaccinations on their behalf.
Unfortunately, this is where scammers come in. Prominent good Samaritan scammers will ask for your personal information and try to sell fake vaccination or vaccine records. The Better Business Bureau has issued a scam alert warning people and offers the following tips for avoiding downsides when looking for a vaccine prescription:
- Always check with official public health channels and approved providers to make an appointment. In the United States, COVID-19 vaccines are only available from official suppliers such as your local health department or pharmacy. The exact service providers vary by region, but you can find a list for your region at VaccineFinder.org . Aggregation sites should always direct you to official providers to make an appointment.
- Anyone claiming to sell vaccine doses is a scam. Beware of those who claim to have received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. This Digital Citizens Alliance report found fraudulent Facebook pages advertising vaccines made in China. Although the pages did not actively advertise the sale of the drug, the scammers offered to sell the fake vaccine after being contacted via Facebook Messenger.
- Do not pay to add your name to the waiting list or to get vaccinated. BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of scammers charging bogus vaccine prescriptions. The federal government provides the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States. Vaccine providers cannot charge a fee for the vaccine. Any claims are otherwise fraudulent.
- Be very careful when disclosing personal information. You do not need your bank account information, credit card information, or social security number to make an appointment for your vaccination.
- Always double check the URL before entering personal information. Scammers often buy official URLs in order to use them in their downsides. Be careful that the link is exactly what it was announced. If the message is allegedly sent by a local government, make sure the URL ends with .gov (for the United States). If in doubt, do a separate website search on the Internet or call the source directly.
- Research proposals carefully . Scammers are very resourceful, so be skeptical about anything that seems too good to be true. Check back any information about the vaccine with official news sources.