Now that the first of the long-awaited vaccines against COVID-19 have arrived, unfortunately so have the vaccine scammers. The good news is that you can protect yourself against these scammers by educating yourself about how to distinguish between a vaccine scam and the real thing.
There are a number of signs that a vaccine offer might be a scam. Beware of the following:1
- Advertisements offering early access to the vaccine or offers to sell or ship vaccine doses in exchange for payment of a fee or deposit.
- Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that you cannot verify.
- Requests that you pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine.
- Individuals who contact you in person, over the phone, via text or by email to tell you that the government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Offers to put you name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.
- Offers to undergo additional tests or procedures when you go to get the vaccine.
- Advertisements for COVID-19 vaccines on social media, email, phone calls, text or other unsolicited and unknown sources.
- Unsolicited emails, calls, texts or other contact from an individual claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company, or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal or medical information to determine your eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.
If you encounter any of these indications of a scam, be cautious and proceed slowly. NEVER share your personal or health information with anyone besides your doctor or a medical professional who you trust. Legitimate vaccine providers will not call, email, or text you and ask you for your social security number, bank account information, credit card information, or other personal or financial information. Anyone who does this is a scammer and you should hang up the phone and stop all communication with this person.2 If you receive phone calls from unfamiliar numbers, do not answer the phone. Let the caller leave you a voicemail message and call that person back if you wish to talk to them. Doctors or other legitimate healthcare providers will leave you a voicemail message allowing you to return the call.
You cannot pay to put your name on a list to receive the vaccine and you cannot pay to get early access to the vaccine. There is no vaccine waiting list and anyone who offers these to you is a scammer.3 Remember, if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If you encounter offers for COVID-19 miracle cures or therapies, talk to your doctor before you act because these cures or therapies may be a scam. Keep in mind that vaccines can only be given by a licensed medical provider. If someone stops you on the street and offers you a COVID-19 vaccine, they are probably not trustworthy.
Additional information to keep in mind:
- Legitimate contact tracers only need your health information, they do not need money or your personal financial information.4
- Be wary of ads for coronavirus test kits. Many test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA and may not be accurate.5
- Do not buy any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment online, including from an online pharmacy.6
- Personal testimonials are not a substitute for scientific evidence.7
When in doubt, talk to your doctor or your county health agency. They can help you verify whether an offer for the COVID-19 vaccine is a scam. If you have questions about the vaccine, you should go to Contra Costa County’s COVID-19 vaccine website for more information at https://www.coronavirus.cchealth.org/vaccine. You can also visit California’s COVID-19 vaccine website at https://covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/.