COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is cautioning Ohioans to look out for COVID-19 vaccine-related scams that will occur as the vaccine is distributed beginning this week.
“A single dose of information can vaccinate you against fraud,” Yost said.
For example, consumers could see scammers impersonating distributors, providers or local health departments claiming to need personal information such as a Social Security number to get on a list to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Other scammers could pretend to be able to help consumers jump to the front of the line to get a vaccine, but ask for advanced payment to secure their place in line. These communications could come through email, phone call, postal mail, text message or even through social media accounts.
Do not fall for these scams.
Also, reports indicate that cards may be distributed to consumers that have been provided the first dose of a two-dose vaccine. These will likely be used to simply remind consumers to get their second dose, not as official “passports” to gain entry into bars, restaurants or other public areas, or to bypass public health orders. Therefore, any attempts to buy these cards will be fruitless.
Do not fall for these scams.
Early in 2020, published reports warned consumers to have their guard up when going online to receive information for products and services designed to help protect against COVID-19. In reality, computer hackers were reportedly sending spam emails with links that were designed to infect consumers’ computers with malicious software, some of which may steal personal information or passwords stored on their devices.
Within the first week of the COVID-19 lockdown in March, scammers started emailing, calling and texting Ohioans trying to steal their identity or money, according to data from Yost’s Constituent Services Section.
Some of those scams asked people to pay for advice on how to treat COVID-19, pay for access to care and to give personal information in order to get medication or prevent infection.
To date, Yost’s office has received 39 complaints of potential COVID-19-related scams.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office recommends several tips to help consumers avoid potential virus and vaccine-related scams:
Verify any vaccine-related information with legitimate news reports. Double-check any new “too-good-to-be-true” news or claims. Consider contacting a family doctor, local health department or the statewide Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 call center (1-833-427-5634) to check on unsure issues.
Look for some of the red flags of a scam, such as being asked to wire money or send a prepaid money card or gift card to a stranger, being pressured to act immediately, or being told to buy a product or service where the company refuses to provide any information in writing. Also look out for those asking to keep conversations a secret.
People likely will not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine during this public health emergency. It is not possible to pay to be placed on a list to get the vaccine or to get early access to the vaccine.
No one from a vaccine distribution site or health care payer, like a private insurance company, will call to ask for a Social Security number or credit card or bank account information to sign up to get the vaccine.
Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice or want help addressing a consumer problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.