AG warning residents of COVID-19 vaccine scams

Coronavirus Local Impact

BOSTON (WWLP) – The state Attorney General’s Office is warning residents of potential scams and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The AG’s office is reporting an increase in complaints from people getting spam or scam emails or texts after they’ve received vaccines or registered for vaccines through legitimate websites. While there have been no reported breaches of patient information from legitimate vaccine websites, the AG’s Office urges people to remain cautious about vaccine scams.

Many of these vaccine scams involve people who’ve registered for or received the vaccine who then get spam or scam emails or text congratulating them on their appointment or vaccination and asking them to click a link to claim a prize of some kind. 

“They’re looking for your money, your personal information, so they can steal your identity,” said Milagros Johnson, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information.

In Springfield, the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information constantly has been getting reports from residents about scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine. Between phony texts and emails, they said there is a lot to look out for.

“You don’t have to pay for the vaccine. Second of all, you don’t have to pay for the vaccine card. Those are all scams,” said Johnson. She said scam artists have been after people posting their COVID-19 vaccine card on social media, “That’s just like posting your social security card, would you do that? There are things we shouldn’t brag about on social media.”

The AG’s office offers this advice:

  • Be Cautious: Don’t respond to or click on links from a person or company you do not know, especially if it asks for personal or financial information. Many of these are phishing attempts. Instead, contact the person or company directly using a phone number or website you know is real. Never provide personal information, including passwords, bank account details, or your Social Security number via email or text to an unverified source.
  • Be Wary of Requests for Payment: Be wary of any unsolicited offers that require you to provide credit card or bank account information or ask for payment or a deposit in exchange for early or expediated access to vaccines. You cannot pay to jump the line and Massachusetts residents do not have to pay out of pocket for the vaccine.
  • Disinformation Campaigns: AG Healey urged Facebook and Twitter to take stronger measures to stop the spread of dangerous anti-vaxxer disinformation on their social media platforms. Online campaigns with a range of disinformation have flourished, sparking fear and distrust about vaccines. To prevent the spread of misinformation, don’t forward or share these false messages. Instead, for accurate information, consult with reputable sources including your doctor, trusted community leaders, the CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and your city or town board of health. 
  • Report Spam or Scams: General spam emails (emails without any of your personal information) should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov). If you have reason to think that your personal information has been compromised, contact the AG’s Office at ago@mass.gov.

For more information and guidance on COVID-related email scams and phone scams, see the AG’s December 2020 vaccine scam advisory.

To avoid fraud, the AG’s Office advises that residents follow guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s website for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution in Massachusetts, and never share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals. The AG’s Office also recommends the Federal Trade Commission’s guidance on avoiding COVID-19 vaccine scams.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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