Scammers are doubling down on their efforts to scam people out of their money and personal information. That’s why the FTC and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) are teaming up to remind you: No matter what anyone tells you, you can’t buy COVID-19 vaccines online and there’s no out-of-pocket cost to get the shots.
Here are some ways to avoid a vaccine-related scam:
- Ignore online ads, social media posts, or phone calls from people offering to sell you the COVID-19 vaccine. You can’t buy it — anywhere. The vaccine is only available at federal- and state-approved locations.
- Don’t pay to sign up for the vaccine. Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line is a scammer.
- Don’t pay out of pocket for a vaccine — not before, during, or after your appointment. That’s either a scam or a mistake. If you’re insured, the vaccination site might bill your insurance company for an administration fee. If you’re not insured, there’s a fund set up with the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA — part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) where sites can recover their administrative costs. Either way, though, they’re not supposed to bill you or charge a co-pay.
- Never share your personal, financial, or health information with people you don’t know. No one from a vaccine distribution site, health care provider’s office, pharmacy, or health care payer, like a private insurance company or Medicare, will call, text, or email you asking for your credit card or bank account number to sign you up to get the vaccine. And remember, you’re not required to give your Social Security number to a vaccination site. You shouldn’t be turned away.
- Contact a trusted source for information. Check with state or local health departments to learn when and how to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also talk with your health care provider or pharmacist.
- Don’t post your vaccination card to your social media account. Your vaccination card has information on it including your full name, date of birth, where you got your vaccine, and the dates you got it. When you post it to Facebook, Instagram, or to some other social media platform, you may be handing valuable information over to someone who could use it for identity theft.
If you know about a COVID-19 vaccine scam, tell the FTC about it 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.
April 20, 2021, by Colleen Tressler, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC