Watch Out for These COVID-19 Vaccination Scams

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 scammers are using different methods to get into your wallet and personal information.You can protect yourself from COVID-19 vaccine appointment scams by knowing the facts, being …

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images
  • COVID-19 scammers are using different methods to get into your wallet and personal information.
  • You can protect yourself from COVID-19 vaccine appointment scams by knowing the facts, being aware of these scams, and exercising caution when sharing personal information.
  • Only get information about the vaccine from your state’s health department, local public health authorities, or doctor’s office.

More than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the news that your COVID-19 vaccine is around the corner has made many people impatient.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a nearby supersite, pharmacy, or community health center that’s ready to begin administering the vaccine to eligible people.

But excitement mixed with uncertainty can leave you vulnerable to COVID-19 vaccination appointment schemes. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General says COVID-19 scammers are using telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits to get into your wallet and personal information. 

Information collected can be used to fraudulently bill federal healthcare programs and commit medical identity theft, says the HHS.

Healthline spoke with Amy Nofziger, director of victim support for the AARP Fraud Watch Network, on how to avoid COVID-19 vaccine appointment scams.

Registering with confidence

If you’re unsure how to securely and safely book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, Nofziger said the best source of information on vaccines is a physician or local health department. 

“If you don't have a healthcare provider, you should consult your local public health authorities,” she said.

“The COVID-19 vaccine registration processes vary by state, and sometimes even by county. To get the latest on how to get the vaccine in your state, visit AARP.org/coronavirus,” she told Healthline.

You can also use Vaccine Finder, an online tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to search vaccine providers near you. 

Protecting yourself

You can protect yourself from COVID-19 vaccine appointment scams by knowing the facts, being aware that these scams are happening, and using caution when discussing the vaccine and sharing personal information.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccine providers cannot:

  • charge you for the vaccine
  • charge you directly for any administration fees, copays, or coinsurance
  • deny vaccination to anyone who does not have health insurance coverage, is underinsured, or is out of network
  • charge an office visit or other fee to the recipient if the only service provided is a COVID-19 vaccination
  • require additional services in order for a person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (however, additional healthcare services can be provided at the same time and billed as appropriate)

The HHS confirms this: “You will not be asked for money to enhance your ranking for vaccine eligibility. Government and state officials will not call you to obtain personal information in order to receive the vaccine.”

This means that anyone asking you for money in exchange for an appointment, a spot on a waitlist, or a COVID-19 vaccine isn't a legitimate provider and should not be trusted.

Nofziger said the best ways to protect yourself are to:

  • Only get information about the vaccine from your state’s health department, local public health authorities, or doctor’s office.
  • Do not share your personal or health information with anyone other than known, trusted medical professionals.
  • If someone reaches out to you to set up an appointment, verify who that person is before giving any personal information.

Catching a fraudster

So, what should you do if you suspect someone is trying to scam you?

“Keep a record of what happened, including any online interactions or information exchanged,” Nofziger said. 

“You should always report if you have been a victim of a scam or if you spot activity you suspect may be a scam,” she told Healthline.

You can report a suspected scam to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

“While you may not be able to recover money lost, reporting it could help prevent it from happening to someone else.”