CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As COVID-19 vaccines become more available to the public, people are eager to find them and many are going online to find the answers.
There are several online communities banding together to help individuals locate open appointments.
Katie Galan with the Better Business Bureau says, these “vaccine hunter” sites can attract scammers looking for vulnerable targets.
Galan says the ruse starts like this:
"In one scenario, scammers insist on receiving personal information, such as Social Security or Medicare numbers, before they can schedule an appointment," she said. "Scammers may also use these platforms to convince consumers they need to buy the vaccine instead of scheduling an appointment. This provides them with an opportunity to sell fake vaccinations or medications."
Galan adds that these scammers are adept at creating fraudulent or lookalike websites.
A common tactic with this approach is to use names similar to those of well-known platforms and organizations. A consumer may think they’re on the correct page, but if they look closely, they’ll see small differences that give away the fake site.
Many remain anxious to get vaccinated and return to normal. Galan warns folks to remember to search cautiously.
"Go through official channels," she says. "The safest way to find a vaccine is to search for availability through pharmacies or the local public health department. Another option is to visit VaccineFinder.org, which is approved and promoted by the CDC."
The United States government is providing all people living in the U.S. with a free COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of immigration or health insurance status. Reject any offers to purchase a dose, and do not pay for an appointment.
According to Galan, "A good way to avoid falling victim to a fake website is to check the URL to avoid lookalike sites with sound-alike names, pay close attention to the URL. First, check for any misspellings or incorrect characters, then look for the lock icon next to the URL. The icon indicates a website is secure."
Always protect your personal information.
It is important to remember that you will not need to provide your bank account details, Social Security number or credit card information in order to schedule an appointment. Cut off contact with anyone asking for this information.
To learn more about avoiding vaccine scams, visit the BBB.org.