The Federal Trade Commission expects some opportunists to attempt to bilk the public when COVID-19 vaccines are made available.
The pending, potential federal approval of two COVID-19 vaccines is likely to create a major opportunity for scammers to pilfer the public, the Federal Trade Commission warned Wednesday.
In a blog post, the FTC—which protects consumers from anticompetitive, deceptive or unfair business practices—outlined how potential vaccines will be distributed and what the public should expect in a preemptive effort to avoid misinformation. The FTC warned scammers have devised new schemes at every juncture of the pandemic, selling bogus medical products to promoting and selling fake vaccines or treatments.
FTC outlined ways crooks may target victims:
- “You likely will not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine during this public health emergency.
- You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
- You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine.
- No one from a vaccine distribution site or health care payer, like a private insurance company, will call you asking for your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account information to sign you up to get the vaccine.
- Beware of providers offering other products, treatments, or medicines to prevent the virus. Check with your health care provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment.”
The FTC further warned that calls, texts or emails from anyone claiming they can grant early access to the vaccine are scams, and warned Americans not to pay or share personal information with anyone purporting to do so. Instead, FTC advises Americans to report any suspicious behavior at ReportFraud.ftc.gov or file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general through http://www.consumerresources.org, the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.
As of Dec. 9, two vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, have submitted applications for emergency use authorizations to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is expected to review the vaccine review applications by the end of December. If one or more vaccines are approved, vaccines “will be distributed to federal-and state-approved locations,” the FTC said.
“For most people living in the U.S., states and territories will make the final decisions on who will get the vaccines and when. States are also working on their own specific vaccination plans. You may want to check with your state for specific information regarding distribution plans in your state. More information on where and how to get a COVID-19 vaccine will be available once vaccines are authorized and/or being shipped out,” the FTC said.