Currently, the vaccine rollout is in full steam in the US and the rest of the world. While this is a positive and significant step to end the pandemic, the logistics of administering a vaccination program on such a scale are challenging.
Understandably, many people might feel unsure about how and when they should book their vaccination appointment. The problem is that excitement mixed with uncertainty about the rules and regulations creates the perfect environment for scammers to operate in. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General, scammers are using telemarketing calls, text messages, and even door-to-door visits to get hold of your personal and financial information, under the guise of scheduling a Covid-19 vaccine appointment.
According to the CDC, vaccine providers cannot charge you for the vaccine, nor can they vaccinate you ahead of schedule if you paid. If you receive an offer to get your shot early for a fee, ignore it. The FBI warned of this scam back in December 2020, and reports from Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker show that unknown scammers have sent unsolicited texts to random users, offering them early access to the vaccine regardless of their eligibility.
Anyone asking for money in exchange for an appointment or a vaccine dose, especially ahead of time, isn’t a legitimate provider and cannot be trusted.
Technically, there is a waiting list for Covid-19 vaccine doses, but you definitely do not have to pay to get on it. Everyone already is, starting with high-risk and high-priority people. Ignore any requests to pay a fee for a spot on a Covid-19 vaccine waitlist, and don’t provide your personal or financial information to anyone asking you to do this. If you call your healthcare provider to register for the vaccine they may put you on a waitlist, but you should not be charged a fee.
Related: Busting Myths & Misconceptions about the COVID-19 Vaccine
Only schedule a vaccine appointment through your healthcare provider or local pharmacy. Unless you have been specifically instructed to do so by your local health facility, avoid scheduling your appointments through Eventbrite or similar platforms, that are not directly affiliated with a trusted authority.
There’s no requirement to take an antibody test or a Covid-19 test before you receive your vaccine. If you get a text, email, or phone call that claims you should undergo any of those tests before your appointment, it's a scam.
The Covid-19 vaccine registration process varies by state and sometimes even by county. If you are unsure of how to safely book a Covid-19 vaccination appointment in your area, the best and most secure source of information is your GP or local health department.
If you don’t have a healthcare provider, you can consult your local public healthcare authorities. It’s important to note that vaccine providers cannot deny vaccination to anyone who does not have health insurance coverage, is underinsured, or is out of network. Additionally, you can use Vaccine Finder, an online tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to search vaccine providers near you.
The bottom line is to stay vigilant and trust your instincts. If someone reaches out to you regarding a vaccine appointment, verify who they are before giving any personal information, such as your bank account information or Social Security number. It’s unlikely that a legitimate health department or vaccination site would require that information to get you vaccinated. If a certain communication seems fishy to you, don’t hesitate to check it with a trusted medical professional!
If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, or have even fallen victim to such a scammer it's essential that you report it. Keep a record of what happened, including any information exchange. While you may not be able to recover the money lost, you could help prevent this from happening to someone else. There are few places to report vaccination scams:
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