With the coronavirus vaccine comes a crime wave, a top security official for Pfizer warns.
Unscrupulous criminals hungry for cash are calling and texting to steal from consumers by purporting they can get them an early vaccine, says Lev J. Kubiak, vice president and chief security officer for New York City-based Pfizer.
Some crooks on the WhatsApp platform have promoted “vaccine tourism” packages for travel to the U.S., touting airfare, hotel rooms and meals along with a coronavirus vaccine, Kubiak says. Online ads for a purported vaccine are beginning to sprout like weeds, as he tells it, and robocalls telling people they could avoid long lines and get a Pfizer vaccine for $79.99 are moving around the country.
Important to know: The only way to access Pfizer's vaccine is through a government-authorized vaccination center in your state, he says.
Be skeptical of vaccine offers
If “someone is offering you a place in line, or access to a limited quantity that you couldn't otherwise get, the first question really should be, ‘Who is this person and why are they are they making this available to me?’" Kubiak tells AARP.
It's not just a quick buck the crooks are chasing. Dangling the prospect of an early vaccine, some try to wheedle Social Security numbers and bank account or credit card numbers out of consumers.
Kubiak, 54, worked for more than two decades in federal law enforcement, chiefly for the Department of Homeland Security, before joining Pfizer in 2016. What's most worrisome? “The No. 1 thing that is most troubling to me is that any illegal activity raises doubt in the minds of a population that is already somewhat worried about taking a vaccine. And so any type of scam, any type of fraudulent offer, further complicates that vaccine confidence."
With the vaccine in short supply now and worldwide demand high, consumers should “be aware that criminals are in this space,” he says, and are “very willing to take advantage of people that are desperate to address the pandemic."