Above / Even before this report arrived, Naperville residents had contacted PN with questions about appointments and concerns about scams related to COVID-19 vaccinations. We’ve urged readers to contact the BBB or the county health department. Note also coronavirus.illinois.gov provides easily accessible information about COVID-19 vaccine locations by appointment. Be safe. (PN File Photo)
COVID-19 vaccine distribution is in full swing, and scammers have been quick to take advantage. BBB Scam Tracker is getting reports of cons ranging from calls phishing for personal information to phony messages claiming you need to pay to guarantee your dose.
Every individual who is eligible to receive the vaccine is urged to double-check any messages before sharing personal information.
Naperville resident Steve Bernas, president and CEO of BBB of Chicago, recently reported, “Scammers follow the latest news and always look for opportunity, and the high emotions of fear and hope make COVID vaccines a perfect target fraud.”
Con artists have already impersonated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in phishing emails that claim to have news about the disease. BBB has also seen an increase in scams using robocalls to impersonate government officials. In addition, people marketing fake vaccines also have been reported, Bernas said.
How the Scam Works
You get a phone call, social media message, or an email saying that you are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It appears to comes from a friend, a public health official, or someone from a local hospital or clinic.
You think, “That’s great news!”
You start to schedule your appointment, but you quickly find there’s a catch. The person who contacted you needs personal information or requires you to pay upfront.
For example, in one version reported to BBB Scam Tracker, a phony caller claims that they need your Medicare number and home address.
“I gave [the scammer] my Medicare number and confirmed my name and address,” one victim reported. “He said he was going to come out to my house to administer the [COVID-19] test, and then the vaccine, but he never showed.”
In another version, scammers are impersonating people via social media, contacting their “friends,” and claiming that – if paid – they can “guarantee… the vaccine ASAP.” In yet another version, scammers are offering vaccine shots for as low as $150, on apps and through email.
No matter what scammers insist, be sure to check it against information from your local government or official news sources. Even if you don’t pay up, sharing personal information with scammers opens you up to the risk of identity theft.
How to Spot a Coronavirus Vaccine Con
- Know your region’s plan for rolling out the vaccine. In the United States, each state has its own process for dispensing the vaccine. Check with your local government or health department. (DuPage County Health Department or Will County Health Department.) Understanding the process in your area and how you can expect to be contacted will help you spot a scam.
- Research carefully: Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Double-check any information about the vaccine with official news sources, and be aware that none of the vaccines can be currently purchased online or in stores.
- Check with your doctor: If you want a vaccine early, reach out to your healthcare provider about your options. If you don’t have a primary care physician, check out your local health department’s official website for more information. (Contact DuPage County Health Department or Will County Health Department.)
- Guard your government-issued numbers. Never, ever offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan information, or banking information to anyone you don’t know or trust. (Readers! This question from scammers is the one reported most to PN. Folks have reported losing $500, only to be contacted again with a similar bogus pitch. Really!)
- Think the link may be real? Double-check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URL domains to use in their cons. Be careful to ensure that the link destination is really what it claims to be. If the message claims to be from the local government, make sure the URL ends in “.gov.”
For More Information
Whether or not you’ve lost money during what could be a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.
About Better Business Bureau (BBB®)
BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois is a nonprofit organization that has served both consumers and trustworthy businesses for over 93 years and is a part of the IABBB. The BBB helps protect consumers from scams and provide an extensive free database for consumers to see business ratings and reviews. BBB also helps promote trustworthy businesses and strives to provide tools to help businesses of integrity excel.
Report submitted by Steve Bernas, president and CEO of BBB of Chicago.
PN Update with Info via coronavirus.illinois.gov
The portal, coronavirus.illinois.gov, provides easily accessible information about the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here for coronavirus.illinois.gov will provide eligible residents with nearby vaccination locations, information on how to make an appointment to receive the vaccine, updates on the state’s plan and eligibility, and answers to frequently asked questions.
More than 3.2 million Illinoisans are eligible for Phase 1B. Eligible residents will be able to receive a vaccine at one of the Illinois National Guard (ILNG) assisted sites, at a site operated by a local health department, or at a partner pharmacy such as Walgreen’s. While federal vaccine shipments to states remain limited, the state is aggressively building out provider capacity to ensure efficient distribution as soon as more vaccine becomes available. Illinois remains committed to distributing the vaccine in an equitable, accessible way and as a part of Phase 1B, all residents over the age of 65 and frontline essential workers can receive the vaccine.
At this time, Illinois will begin vaccinating eligible residents by appointment only.
As the federal supply of vaccines increases and Illinois receives more vaccine, the state will launch walk-in locations and expand sites to additional providers like doctor’s offices and urgent care clinics.
Watch for more information about those locations coming soon.
Walgreens will provide vaccines at 92 sites across the state, eligible residents can schedule an appointment here. Jewel-Osco will also begin vaccinating eligible residents and the link to schedule an appointment can be found here. Additional pharmacy partners are expected to be coming online as well, opening registration for appointments.
One more time: The portal, coronavirus.illinois.gov, provides easily accessible information about the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here for vaccination sites and to make an appointment.