As millions of people wait for the new COVID-19 vaccine, fraudsters are using this opportunity to scam people who are willing to pay for it, U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox warns.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen fraudsters taking advantage of public programs and supply shortages,” Cox said in a Dec. 18 press release. “We expect the new vaccine to provide similar platforms for deceit, and we will be ready to prosecute those responsible for vaccine-related fraud to the fullest extent of the law.”
On Thursday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott predicted that by the end of the year, 1 million Texans would receive vaccine.
Last week, the COVID-19 vaccine began arriving in Collin County. About 1,000 doses headed to Medical City McKinney and another 2,925 doses arriving at Medical City Plano. Texas Health Resources received about 6,000 doses among its 16 facilities, including ones located in Allen, Frisco, and Plano.
Gov. Abbott said that the initial doses were reserved for frontline health care workers. He hoped to include teachers with the next round. Next week, another 685,000 doses will be arriving in 185 Texas counties, according to a Dec. 18 Dallas Morning News report.
“Everybody owes a debt of gratitude to these doctors and nurses who have been on the front line for months now,” Abbott said.
In Texas, about 1.57 million people have been infected and 25,608 people have been killed, as of Sunday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office pointed out that states will determine how their own vaccination plans would unfold. During the public health emergency, they don’t expect any out-of-pocket charges.
The FTC and FBI warn that fraudsters could try to convince people to pay for early access to the vaccine. They could also try to charge for the vaccine itself.
To protect yourself against fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office recommends that you always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, emails, or home visits that ask for payment information in order to receive a vaccine.
“No one from a vaccine distribution site will ask for your credit card or banking information,” Cox wrote. “If you want to verify whether COVID-19 related solicitations or treatments are legitimate, call your health provider.”
Millions of people fall victim to scams every year. If you think you have become a victim, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or online at www.justice.gov/coronavirus. You can also submit a report to https://ReportFraud.ftc.gov.