Federal agencies warn of emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines

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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The FBI, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are warning the public about several emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines.

According to a media statement from the FBI, the three federal agencies have received complaints of scammers using the public’s interest in COVID-19 vaccines to obtain personally identifiable information and money through various schemes.

“We continue to work diligently with law enforcement partners and the private sector to identify cyber threats and fraud in all forms,” officials said in the statement.

The agencies warned against unsolicited emails, telephone calls or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal and/or medical information to determine recipients’ eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.

They also said advise to be wary of contact by people saying the government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the statement, the public should also be aware of the following potential indicators of fraudulent activity:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Requests asking you to pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.
  • Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine.
  • Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified.

The agencies recommend consulting state health department websites for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution channels and only obtaining a vaccine through such channels. They also suggesting consulting primary care physicians before undergoing any vaccination.

Other tips to avoid COVID-19 vaccine-related fraud:

  • Check the FDA website for current information about vaccine emergency use authorizations.
  • Don’t share personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.
  • Check medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for any suspicious claims and promptly reporting any errors to health insurance providers.
  • Follow guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other trusted medical professionals.

If you believe you have been the victim of a COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it to the FBI at ic3.gov or tips.fbi.gov or by calling 1-800-225-5324 (CALL-FBI). You can also contact the Department of Health and Human Services at tips.hhs.gov or by calling 1-800-447-8477 (HHS-TIPS).

Other general online/cyber fraud prevention techniques:

  • Verify the spelling of web addresses, websites and email addresses that look trustworthy but may be imitations of legitimate websites.
  • Ensure operating systems and applications are updated to the most current versions.
  • Update anti-malware and anti-virus software and conduct regular network scans.
  • Do not enable macros on documents downloaded from an email unless necessary and after ensuring the file is not malicious.
  • Do not communicate with or open emails, attachments or links from unknown individuals.
  • Never provide personal information of any sort via email; be aware that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
  • Use strong two-factor authentication if possible, using biometrics, hardware tokens or authentication apps.
  • Disable or remove unneeded software applications.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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