COVID-19 Scams: Vaccine Scams and Identity Theft

The recent developments in vaccines towards fighting the coronavirus have raised hopes of finally fighting a pandemic that has devastated the world for more than a year. However, these developments have opened another avenue for criminals to steal personal, financial, and medical information from unsuspecting individuals.

Top Vaccine Scams for Identity Theft

Identity thieves prey on the fear and uncertainty among the public to steal vital information. Most of these identity thieves will pose as helpful individuals or institutions that offer credible information and guidelines relating to the vaccine. Here are some common vaccine scams that criminals use to steal your data:

1.       Phishing Scams

These scams target people with information about the vaccine. The scammers pose as a trusted authority offering legitimate updates about the vaccine. They can send you communication via email, text, call, or voicemail. The messages also contain links or attachments that you need to open. However, these links will download malware into your devices or, in some cases, collect your financial or personal information.

Therefore, always verify an email address or link before opening it to ensure it is from a legitimate source.  Never share your personal information over an email or phone with anyone, even if they claim to be from a legitimate source.

2.       Priority Access to the Vaccine

Countries across the globe are vaccinating vulnerable communities and frontline workers in their first phases. This means that less vulnerable individuals have to wait until later to receive their vaccine.

Criminals have used this gap to offer priority access to the vaccine. Thus, they may promise that you will be on the vaccine shortlist and request your information to be added to this list. In some cases, they will directly ask for money to send you a vaccine.

Legitimate distributors of vaccines do not ask for any payment or personal information in exchange for the vaccine.  There is no shortlist. Therefore, always ask for vaccine updates from your physician or check legitimate government websites. (Make sure you type in the right address to avoid being the victim of a spoofing attack).

3.       Fake Vaccines and Cures

Criminals use websites, door-to-door visits, phone calls, emails, and text messages claiming to help victims gain access to a coronavirus vaccine. However, they ask for their financial information, social security number, and insurance information.

But Legitimate vaccine distributors, insurance providers, contact tracers, and vaccine center employees don’t do this.  They don’t need, and should not ask for, your social security number or any financial information to offer their services.

4.       Fake Websites

Identity thieves set up fake websites imitating government institutions, vaccine manufacturers, Medicare, and vaccine distributors. While these websites pretend to offer fake vaccines or cures, their goal is to collect your personal and financial information.

Protecting Yourself from Vaccine-Related Identity Theft

At RKN Global, we recommend that you learn and implement best practices to prevent identity theft to protect your personal, financial, medical, and insurance information from fraudsters.  Accordingly, some of the best practices include:

  • Verify any contact information and messages for the organization the person says they represent. Alternatively, initiate communication with the organization yourself.
  • Do not share your personal information. Most organizations never ask for any personal information through phone, text, or social media.
  • Do not respond to robocalls.
  • Keep documents containing your personal information in a secure location.
  • Secure your online accounts using strong passwords for all accounts. Do not use the same password for different accounts.
  • Always monitor your credit and take the necessary steps if you learn that someone has stolen your identity.

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Ronald K. Noble is the founder of RKN Global and currently serves as one of its principal consultants.