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With approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, officials expect scams to emerge as distribution begins. Watch out for everything from phony treatments to phishing messages.

What to Expect from Scammers:

Government officials have already been cracking down on phony COVID testing kits and treatments. Now, they are ramping up efforts to prevent the sale of fake vaccines.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working with the drug companies developing the vaccines to stop the sale and distribution of phony versions. Also, the Federal Trade Commission issued warning letters to several companies claiming they had a product to cure or prevent the virus. 

Selling fake vaccines and other treatments is likely only one of many ways scammers will try to cash in on the vaccine release. Watch out for phishing messages attempting to trick you into sharing your passwords and personal information. Con artists have already impersonated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in phishing emails that claim to have news about the disease. BBB has also seen an increase in scams using robocalls to impersonate government officials.

How to Spot a Coronavirus Vaccine Con:

Research carefully: Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Double check any information about the vaccine with official news sources. And be aware that none of the vaccines can be currently purchased online or in stores.

•Check with your doctor:  If you want a vaccine early, reach out to your healthcare provider about your options. If you don't have a primary care physician, check out the official website of your local health department for more information

•Ignore calls for immediate action. People should know that if they get a call, text, email—or even someone knocking on their door—claiming they can provide early access to the vaccine, it’s a scam. People should not pay for a promise of vaccine access or share their personal information. Instead, they should report the scam. Scammers try to get you to act before you think. Don't fall for it.

•Think the link may be real? Double check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. Be careful that the link is really what it pretends to be. If the message alleges to come from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov. When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.

Read more about coronavirus scams on the Federal Trade Commission’s website. Learn more about the disease at the CDC’s FAQ page. Also, the FDA is updating their page about its progress on developing treatments for coronavirus.

BBB has identified many ways in which scammers are cashing in the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about clinical trial scamscontract tracing conscounterfeit face masks, and government agency imposters on BBB.org.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.

Kelvin Collins is President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 77 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Website: BBB.org or Email: info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org

 

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