The COVID-19 pandemic has strained even the most resilient and flexible organizations, but after nearly nine months of sheltering-in-place and social distancing, the development of COVID-19 vaccines seems to promise a return to normalcy. Unfortunately, the widespread anticipation and desire for vaccinations has brought scammers out in force.
How the Scams Work
Scams promising vaccines use a variety of channels, including email phishing, fraudulent phone calls, and door-to-door sales. Many of these COVID-19 vaccine scams are fairly basic, exploiting ignorance and desire rather than using sophisticated deception techniques. These scams are often easily recognizable by their key characteristic—making promises that don’t align with the status of the vaccines or the distribution plans.
According to a post from the Federal Trade Commission blog, the most common warning signs for vaccine scams are as follows:
- Promising early access to the vaccine
- Making you register to receive the vaccine
- Phony vaccine distributors and insurers asking for personal information
- Alternative medicine and “miracle cures” for COVID-19
Avoiding These Scams
Researching official information and statements about the vaccines can be effective for protecting oneself against vaccine scams. Unlike with many of the other scams SDC CPAs has detailed, staying informed is easier said than done as scammers leverage the abundant misinformation, rumors, and conflicting reports about vaccine distribution.
This becomes especially problematic considering what may be seen as a wider trend of people of color and vulnerable populations being underserved during the COVID-19 crisis. Given the potential escalation of these disinformation efforts, Dee Studler, founder and managing member of SDC, recommends relying on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, especially their Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices page.
As misinformation and desire converge with scammers’ malicious intent, COVID-19 scams present a distinct risk. That risk can, however, be mitigated by reliable information, caution, and skepticism.