What’s the news: Millions of people continue to wait for their turn to get a COVID-19 vaccine. While that might be months away, online scammers are taking advantage of a health emergency by luring victims with false claims that they can deliver COVID-19 vaccination within days for a fee.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are warning the public about fraud schemes centered around COVID-19 vaccine distribution. This comes after the FBI, HHS-OIG and CMS received complaints of scammers using the public’s interest in COVID-19 vaccines to obtain personal information and money. These organizations continue to work with law enforcement and private sectors to identify cyber threats and fraud.
Read about how the Ad Council and COVID Coalition are answering health professionals’ COVID-19 vaccination questions.
Why it’s important: Health care personnel and long-term care facilities have been prioritized to receive the initial allocation of COVID-19 vaccines. However, as Americans grow eager to receive their own vaccination, scammers are taking advantage of an opportunity to prey on patients.
Health and security officials continue to identify phishing scams in which perpetrators impersonate health care workers. Receiving unsolicited offers for a vaccine raise several red flags that should not go unnoticed. Under no circumstances should an individual work with anyone except a known and reputable health system, physician or pharmacy.
It is important for physicians to educate their patients about potential malicious behavior as the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out. Patients should be informed that Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 services, no one should be asked for money to improve their ranking for vaccine eligibility and no government official will call the general public to obtain personal information.
Learn more: Should someone receive an unsolicited call asking for information, health experts urge everyone to hang up immediately. Additionally, individuals should not open or respond to text messages and emails about COVID-19 from unknown sources. This may lead to downloading malware that can harm a person’s device.
Physicians can share with their patients that the FBI warned the public to be aware of indicators of fraudulent activity. Those include:
- Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine with payment.
- 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.
Follow guidance and recommendations about the COVID-19 vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other trusted medical organizations.
The AMA has developed frequently-asked-questions documents on COVID-19 vaccination covering safety, allocation and distribution, administration and more. There are two FAQs, one designed to answer patients’ questions (PDF), and another to address physicians’ COVID-19 vaccine questions (PDF).
Find out more with the AMA about COVID-19 and vaccine development.
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COVID-19 Vaccine Script for Patient Inquiries
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COVID-19: AMA's recent and ongoing advocacy efforts