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Eventbrite sites targeting Florida seniors charged money for fake vaccination appointments

Eventbrite sites targeting Florida seniors charged money for fake vaccination appointments
© UPI Photo

Eventbrite sites posing as local Florida health departments have reportedly targeted seniors in the state by charging money for fake vaccination appointments, prompting local health officials to issue warnings to residents Monday. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 Trump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump wins CPAC straw poll with 55 percent MORE (R) issued an executive order on Dec. 23 mandating that those 65 and older would be among the first people of the general public to receive the vaccine, after health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities. 

According to Pasco County health department spokesperson Melissa Watts, some seniors have recently arrived at vaccination centers in the county claiming to have appointments, only to find out their reservation was fraudulent, the Tampa Bay Times reported. 

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The Eventbrite websites reportedly charged people to schedule appointments, prompting officials in both Pasco and Pinellas counties to notify residents that there is no cost to register for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“There could still be people thinking they have appointments and they don’t. It’s really a shame,” Watts told the Times, adding that the Pasco department is still unsure of how many people scheduled appointments through Eventbrite websites. 

Both the Pasco and Pinellas health departments tweeted Monday notifying users of the fake registration pages, adding, “You should NOT be charged to register. Registration is FREE.”

The departments tweeted that the only way to schedule a vaccine appointment is through the counties’ official health department websites. 

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The Pinellas health department tweeted Tuesday morning that, “anyone who has made an appointment through the fraudulent Eventbrite site does not have a valid reservation for a vaccination,” but that “schedulers will work with those individuals to get them onto the schedule.” 

The news comes as the Times reported challenges for seniors across Florida to schedule appointments to receive the coronavirus vaccine, with overwhelming demand jamming phone lines and website servers Monday. 

Due to the high demand and technical issues, Pinellas County suspended online and over-the-phone registration by 7 p.m., and Hillsborough County’s health department expanded its call center hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. beginning Tuesday to try to meet the demand.

The challenges with vaccine distribution come as the Sunshine State has recorded a total of nearly 1.4 million COVID-19 cases, with more than 22,000 deaths due to the virus and more than 63,000 hospitalizations. 

Last week, Florida health officials announced they had detected the state’s first case of the new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus first found in the United Kingdom. Colorado and California have also both detected cases of the new variant.

The Hill has reached out to the governor's office and the state's health department regarding the fake vaccine appointments.