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Safety Highlight: Coronavirus Scams
Three Ways to Avoid COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

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The Federal Trade Commission issued a new consumer education blog post on December 8, 2020, with the National Association of Attorneys General, offering tips on how to recognize and avoid vaccine-related scams. According to the post, with COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline, scammers will not be far behind, and people should recognize the red flags of potential scams.

The post notes that: 1) reports about the release of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. by the end of the year are promising, but distribution plans are still being worked out; 2) while we wait for a timeline and more information, people need to be wary of pitchmen claiming to have vaccine doses for sale; and 3) for most people living in the U.S., state agencies—not individuals—will be responsible for implementing vaccine distribution plans.

For more information about COVID-related scams and tips on how to recognize, avoid and report them, see Coronavirus Vaccine Scams.  

Scams can be reported to Senior Medicare Patrol at 855-613-7080. 

The Federal Trade Commission issued a notice about a scam where fraudsters are exploiting fear about Coronavirus by trying to steal your personal information or money. See the FTC notice.

“Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.

The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. It could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment, or cure claims for the Coronavirus, ask yourself: if there’s been a medical breakthrough, would you be hearing about it for the first time through an ad or sales pitch?
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
  • Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

If you have been a victim of a scam, please call San Mateo County’s Aging and Adult Services at 1-800-675-8437 or your local law enforcement.

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