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How to avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams

COVID-19 vaccine frauds are on the rise as many scammers try to lure people in with the promise of fake vaccines.
/ Source: TODAY

Many Americans wish the COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out more quickly, and scammers are starting to prey on their anxiety.

On Wednesday, NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders highlighted some of the ways scammers are luring people into getting fake vaccines and tempting Americans with offers that sound too good to be true.

In the short time the vaccine has been available, several instances of vaccine fraud have already been reported. In Washington, for instance, a man was arrested for charging local residents hundreds of dollars for phony vaccines. The Texas Department of State Health Services have also warned people to be on the lookout for criminals that are using the pandemic to scam them.

The FBI is also alerting Americans to beware and issued a warning on the government agency's website in December. At the time, the FBI said it had received several complaints of "scammers using the public’s interest in COVID-19 vaccines to obtain personally identifiable information (PII) and money through various schemes."

In his segment, Sanders broke down some of the most common ways to recognize a vaccine scam and shared some tips for staying safe.

"If you see that you have been offered an opportunity to get a vaccine and there is payment (required), back off. There should be no payment," he explained.

Here are a few other red flags to watch out for, outlined by the FBI:

  • Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine.
  • Unsolicited emails, telephone calls or contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal and/or medical information to determine recipients’ eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.
  • Advertisements for COVID-19 vaccines on social media.

"If you're seeing information on social media or you get a phone call or somebody you don't know is offering you the vaccine, it may very well not be the vaccine at all," Sanders said.

Last, but most certainly not least, keep an eye out for messages that tell you the vaccine is required.

"Make sure you understand all the details so that it's not like 'You must meet this requirement, we can give it to you right now,'" Sanders explained.

Due to the scarcity of the vaccine, scammers are playing on people's emotions, and it's not just in the U.S. Earlier this month, European government officials also reported a rise in vaccine fraud and warned citizens to keep an eye out for scammers looking for money and personal data.

There are also some smaller scale vaccine scams being highlighted. For instance, a Florida man who was recently honored as “Paramedic of the Year” was arrested in connection with the theft of vaccine doses that were supposed to go to first responders.

The bottom line? Keep an eye out for potential scams and always consult your state's health department website for accurate information on vaccine distribution in your area.