As public interest in COVID-19 vaccinations continues to far exceed available shots in the U.S., Los Angeles County officials are warning residents about scammers attempting to sell appointments and steal information.
"If someone offers to sell you an appointment to be vaccinated, it's a scam," said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county Department of Public Health, FOX 11 reported. "If someone offers to sell you a vaccine, get you a low-cost deal or get your vaccine under the table, again, it's a scam."
Simon said texts and emails are circulating nationwide, prompting users to complete a "time-limited survey" about the coronavirus vaccines for a "free reward," but requires shipping fees.
"No legitimate surveys about the COVID-19 vaccine will ask for your credit card or bank account number to pay for a free reward," he said, per the outlet.
Los Angeles plans to expand vaccine eligibility on April 1 to include county residents aged 50-64, and eligibility will further expand on April 15 for all those aged 16 and up. Health officials said there aren’t enough doses to vaccinate everyone who is eligible, and will prioritize hard-hit communities.
"We need to ask for patience until supply increases," the health department wrote in a release.
In the meantime, officials warn residents that scammers are capitalizing on pandemic-related fear and anxiety with fraudulent offers and are attempting to steal personal information. Officials cautioned to watch out for these red flags:
- You are contacted and asked to respond straight away with your personal or financial information. This might be your Social Security, bank account or credit card number, Medi-Cal or Medicare details. NEVER share these or other personal information.
- You receive an offer to buy a vaccine, and have it mailed to you. There are no "secret" sources of a vaccine that can be purchased. If anything is sent, it will not be the real vaccine.
- You see ads for fake vaccines or "miracle cures" using vitamins or other dietary supplements. Scammers promote these even though they have not been proven to work. The FDA has issued warning letters to many companies for selling products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.
- If anyone that isn’t well known in your community (like a doctor, a health care clinic, a pharmacy, a county health program) offers you a vaccine – think twice.
The Federal Trade Commission also warns that consumers cannot pay to get their name on a list to receive a vaccine or buy their way into early access. Los Angeles residents were advised to visit VaccinateLACounty.com for more information.