Personal Cybersecurity

Beware of COVID Vaccine Scams

4 Minute Read

COVID scams, which first gained steam shortly after the virus itself did, are still a concerning threat. Now they are becoming more focused on vaccine-related activities. Malicious actors/cybercriminals seek to take advantage of unsuspecting users, preying on their fears of the virus and desire to get a vaccine sooner rather than later.

Scammers use information they find about individuals from social media or other online sources to send targeted messages, such as fraudulent “click here” links for available vaccine appointments. In some cases they pretend to be from the clinic where the person got their first vaccination, contacting them to schedule the second shot or as a follow up. Clicking on these links could lead to malicious software being downloaded to their computer or the theft of sensitive, personal data.  

While it is important to stay safe during the pandemic, it is also important to stay cybersafe. Here are some of the most common scams and red flags to be aware of, as well as tips to avoid them.

Common Vaccine Scams and Red Flags

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine for a fee
  • Requests asking an individual to pay out of pocket to obtain a vaccine or to put their name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list
  • Offers for additional medical testing when obtaining a vaccine
  • People offering to sell or ship doses of a vaccine in exchange for a fee
  • Unsolicited emails or phone calls from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccine center to determine eligibility
  • Advertisements for vaccines through social medial platforms

Tips to Help You Avoid COVID-19 Vaccine Scams:

  • Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments; verify the email sender via a known source
  • Use trusted sources—such as legitimate, government websites—for up-to-date, fact-based information about COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Think before you share vaccination and other COVID-19 information you find online or receive in an email, as fake and malicious information can spread easily and quickly to others; before sharing, verify the information is correct and from a trusted source
  • If you have been vaccinated, avoid posting your vaccination record card on social media or elsewhere online as they can be rich sources of intel for fraudsters, hackers, and other cybercriminals
  • As always with social media, consider making your accounts private so that strangers cannot view your posts; be wary of accepting friend requests from people you don’t know; and limit the amount of information you share on social media. Fraudsters use information from social media to craft convincing, individually tailored phishing campaigns designed to trick you into sharing sensitive information.

For more information on COVID-19 scams, visit the FBI page on COVID-19.

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