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Protect Yourself From COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

It feels like every few weeks, someone’s running a new scam. Text message scams, property scams, gift card scams—the schemes are almost as creative as they are infuriating. Scammers prey on your trust and comfort. The more they keep you guessing, the more likely they are to defraud you of your money and personal information.

With the recent Emergency Use Authorization of COVID-19 vaccines, scammers saw opportunity. You’ve probably heard about it in the news—vaccine supply is low, demand is high. Coupled with a general desire for normalcy, scammers have discovered that exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic is profitable.

Coronavirus scams cost Americans more than $145 million by September 2020.

Common COVID-19 scams

COVID-19 testing, vaccination and treatment: Scammers may promise you early access to the vaccine in exchange for money or personal information. The truth is that vaccines are being rolled out deliberately to at-risk populations and first responders. Reference official government websites for accurate vaccine information.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE A SCAM

The scammer appears to be calling from a familiar company or organization.

The scammer appears to be calling from a familiar company or organization.

The scammer appears to be calling from a familiar company or organization.

The scammer appears to be calling from a familiar company or organization.

COVID charity scams: Many scams have emotional hooks. Scammers have been pretending to represent charities that support the recently unemployed or suffering small businesses. Be sure to research any charity online before agreeing to donate any money. Use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization search tool to verify that your money is going to the right place. When in doubt, donate through the charity’s official website.

Calls from the IRS or other government agencies: Some scammers pose as representatives from the IRS or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). While a call from the IRS sounds scary, it’s important to know that the IRS doesn’t ever call people and demand payment. They typically send a bill in the mail. Here’s more on how to know when it’s really the IRS.

What to do if you were scammed

If you paid money to a scammer, shared important personal identification (like your social security number) or if a scammer has access to your computer, it’s important to act quickly.

The Federal Trade Commission has guidance on what to do when you’ve been scammed. Be sure to report the scam as soon as possible. While rare, the government has been able to convict scammers and return money to victims.

Stay up to date on new scams. Visit the FTC’s website and sign up for scam alerts. Help protect your friends and family—especially the elderly— by sharing these tips.