With the demand for COVID-19 vaccines outpacing the supply, appointments are difficult to make. The conundrum has prompted scammers — hard at work throughout the pandemic — to seek new ways to steal money and personal information from older Americans, federal officials warned on Feb. 23 during an hourlong “COVID-19 Scams and Older Adults” webinar.
After scams involving fake test kits and phony cures, nonexistent cleaning supplies and bogus stimulus grants and other financial benefits (some still wreaking havoc), here's what officials said are among today's red-hot COVID-19 scams:
1. Vaccine scams. You can't pay to skip the line, reserve an appointment spot or join a clinical trial. Be wary of inbound calls or texts that ask for your Social Security number, financial details or insurance information to reserve your spot. There also have been reports of scammers impersonating local health departments and vaccine providers. Never share personal, financial or medical information with people you don't know. If your pharmacy sends you a text, don't respond; instead reach out with a phone number you know is legit.
2. Vaccine-for-sale scams. Ignore ads touting vaccine for sale from an online pharmacy or elsewhere. It is not.
"Real contact tracers will not ask for money. They will not ask for your Social Security number or your bank or credit card numbers. They also won't ask your immigration status."
—Lisa Schifferle, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office for Older Americans
3. Contact tracing scams. Genuine contact tracers will not ask for money or your Social Security number, bank account or credit card number. Nor will you be asked to disclose your immigration status.
4. At-home test kit scams. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized at-home diagnostic tests for COVID-19, scammers are posing as Medicare representatives and asking for Social Security numbers in exchange for what they purport is a free test kit. Some promise overnight delivery. Don't believe it. Instead check with your health department to find a legitimate testing site.
5. Government payment scams. Government agencies will not ask you for payments via cash, gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency.