Officials warn of increase in COVID-19 vaccine scams

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As COVID-19 continues to spread, so do the scams associated with the deadly disease.

According to multiple federal agencies, scams involving the coronavirus are spreading almost as fast as the virus itself.

According to Sergeant Michael Warren of the Metro Police Fraud Unit, a red flag is anyone calling you, texting you, or emailing you wanting money to enhance your position for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s a total fraud. It’s a scam. I’d hang up on them immediately,” said Sgt. Warren.

Warren tells News 2 that coronavirus is the perfect storm for a would be scam artist.

“So, I have always said there are two things that hook people into a scam. It’s urgency or fear, and you have both. They can play on the fear that you will get the virus and the urgency is people think the vaccine is limited and they’ll be left out in the cold if they don’t get their shots now.”

Federal agencies like the FBI and IRS have put out nationwide alerts related to COVID-19 scams. Watchdogs urge consumers not to release personal information or spend money to get the COVID-19 shot.

Warren says scam artists may use any number of techniques to get people to release personal data as it relates to the COVID-19 emergency.

“That is the more concerning part to me. A couple of hundred bucks is nothing compared to your personal info being exposed. They can open bank accounts, they can open up credit cards, they can take over your identity.”

Warren says some people could already be victims and don’t yet realize it.

To this point, Sgt. Warren says his department has not received any COVID-19 related scam reports but he is sure that will soon change.

“It is only a matter of time before they start targeting Nashville citizens. And they will come at them and say, ‘Hey, do you want to be put on the waiting list, or the early list?’ Or they will convince them to pay up front to reserve their spot in line. And these are all scams. This is not legitimate. Because the people administering these immunizations are not asking for cash.”

Warren reiterates that the vaccine is free. He says if anyone contacts you and wants money or your personal identification hang up.

The IRS just put out a national warning to consumers to be wary.

Some common COVID-19 scams include:

  1. Text messages asking taxpayers to disclose bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 economic impact payments.
  2. Phishing schemes using email, letters and social media messages with key words such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “stimulus” in varying ways. These communications are blasted to large numbers of people and aim to access personally identifying information and financial account information (including account numbers and passwords).
  3. The organized and unofficial sale of fake at-home COVID-19 test kits (as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, pills, and professional medical advice regarding unproven COVID-19 treatments).
  4. Fake donation requests for individuals, groups and areas heavily affected by the disease.
  5. Bogus opportunities to invest in companies developing COVID-19 vaccines while promising that the “company” will dramatically increase in value as a result.

News 2 is helping you fight back against scams. We expose scammers tricks in our ScamBusters special reports on WKRN.com.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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