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Scammers offering fake, early COVID-19 vaccine access: public health officials

Scammers offering fake, early COVID-19 vaccine access: public health officials
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Scammers are attempting to exploit the news of the coronavirus vaccine by offering fake vaccine access for individuals who give their Social Security number to callers, public health officials have cautioned.

States throughout the U.S. began vaccinations for health care workers and the vulnerable this week, and officials are warning about scammers targeting unsuspecting individuals seeking a vaccine, NBC News reports.

“If you're receiving unsolicited offers for a vaccine — not one, not two, but about 10 red flags should go up,” Nenette Day, assistant special agent in charge at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General, told NBC. “There is no way that you under any circumstance should deal with anybody except a known and reputable medical provider or pharmacy."

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Earlier this month, HHS issued an alert to the public regarding potential fraud surrounding the news of a vaccine, cautioning people to be aware of malicious behavior.

Day underscored that Medicare would not call beneficiaries with vaccine offers, adding that government officials would also not contact individuals for highly personal information such as Social Security numbers.

“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, and you will not be solicited door to door to receive the vaccine,” HHS wrote in an alert on its webpage Dec. 3.

Health experts also advised consumers who receive unsolicited calls requesting information to hang up the phone immediately to avoid giving fraudsters any information.

In a statement to NBC, the Better Business Bureau said, “Scammers will always try to get you to make a decision quickly […] and that’s because they don’t want people to think about it.”

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission also posted guidance relating to vaccine scams, telling consumers to always check with health care providers before paying for or receiving any coronavirus related treatment.