The good news: COVID-19 vaccines are on the way. The bad news: So are the scammers.
The Food and Drug Administration is already reviewing vaccines from two manufacturers, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Moderna. That review could wrap up by Christmas.
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the first doses should go to health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities. The rest of us will have to wait.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that scammers are already hard at work while Americans scramble to get vaccinated.
Here’s what you need to know so you don’t fall for a scam:
1. DO NOT PAY: You (probably) won’t have to pay anything out of pocket for the vaccine, since we’re in a public health emergency.
2. NO VIP LIST: You cannot pay to get your name on some VIP list to get the vaccine. The same goes for early access.
3. NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER: No one from a vaccine distribution site or insurance company will call you asking for your Social Security number, credit card number, or banking information.
4. NO, SOME RANDOM GUY IN SEATTLE OR ALASKA, (OR ANYWHERE ELSE) DOES NOT HAVE CURE: Beware of providers offering other products, treatments, or medicines to prevent the virus. Check with your health care provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment.
Both the FDA and FTC said that people who fall for these false advertisements face grave consequences. Such phony products, which haven’t been subjected to rigorous testing or clinical trials, could make you ill, or worse.
“The FDA is taking urgent measures to protect consumers from certain products that, without licensure, approval, or authorization by FDA, claim to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure Covid-19 in people … you have offered a product for sale that is intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure Covid-19 in people. We request that you take immediate action to cease the sale of such unlicensed, unapproved, and unauthorized products for the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis, or cure of Covid-19.”
If you get a call, text, email — or even someone knocking on your door — claiming they can get you early access to the vaccine, STOP. That’s a scam. Don’t pay for a promise of vaccine access or share personal information. Instead, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov or file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general through consumerresources.org, the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Here’s the FTC’s info guide with the same main points above: