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8 coronavirus vaccine scams that want to steal your money and personal information

CNET logo CNET 1/13/2021 Amanda Capritto
Don't fall for these COVID-19 vaccine-related scams. Getty Images © Provided by CNET Don't fall for these COVID-19 vaccine-related scams. Getty Images

Despite its many tribulations, 2020 ended on a high note: Two COVID-19 vaccines became available in December (and a third followed shortly, becoming available in January). But with the vaccine rollout came many myths and fear, and now, scams

Coronavirus scams are nothing new -- the FBI halted hundreds of coronavirus scams in 2020, from fake cures to charity drives -- but 2021 opened with a number of scams related to the vaccine directly. 

The FBI released a warning letter to the public on Dec. 21, encouraging people to stay vigilant and beware of vaccine scams, like these eight that have been circulating.

Read more: COVID-19 side effects: What we know so far

Scam: Paying for priority access

Priority groups have already been determined by the federal government. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images © Provided by CNET Priority groups have already been determined by the federal government. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

The federal government has outlined the vaccine rollout schedule, and there's no way to jump the line. You can't pay to skip ahead of health care professionals, long-term care facility residents and workers, senior adults, educators, firefighters, police officers, agricultural workers and other essential workers in priority groups. 

Don't fall for these COVID-19 vaccine-related scams. © Getty Images

Don't fall for these COVID-19 vaccine-related scams.

Protect yourself: Ignore unsolicited emails, texts and phone calls asking you to pay for priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Don't click on online advertisements, event pages or other web pages that promise priority access for a fee. 

The most important health tech of CES 2021

We've seen home healthcare devices at CES for years now, but it's probably never been more important than it is this year. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic forced us all to stay home for months and switch to telemedicine. For doctors, being able to monitor their patients vitals from home wasn't just convenient, it was essential. At CES 2021, there are health tech devices for all sorts of medical concerns, from heart health and neurological disorders to sleep and allergy relief.

We've seen home healthcare devices at CES for years now, but it's probably never been more important than it is this year. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic forced us all to stay home for months and switch to telemedicine. For doctors, being able to monitor their patients vitals from home wasn't just convenient, it was essential. At CES 2021, there are health tech devices for all sorts of medical concerns, from heart health and neurological disorders to sleep and allergy relief.
© Provided by CNET

Scam: Scheduling appointments through Eventbrite and other platforms

While you may have to schedule an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes for you to get it, it won't happen through Eventbrite or other event platforms. Scammers may steal your personal information when you submit it through signup forms. 

Protect yourself: When it's time for you to get the vaccine, call the health care facility you plan to go to. Make an appointment over the phone if needed. 

Scam: Paying out-of-pocket for the vaccine

a laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table: You shouldn't have to pay out-of-pocket for the COVID-19 vaccine. Getty Images © Provided by CNET You shouldn't have to pay out-of-pocket for the COVID-19 vaccine. Getty Images

The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be free to everyone in the US, whether or not you have health insurance. You shouldn't pay for the vaccine, nor should you expect a surprise bill after the fact, because the federal government has written into law that the vaccine will pose no cost to Americans. 

You might get a bill for a vaccine administration fee or other copay, but it's unclear whether those fees are required to be paid in full by insurance companies or by reimbursement funds. If you request other medical services at the time of your vaccine appointment, you may be required to pay for those services or request reimbursement from your insurance. 

Protect yourself: If you're being asked to pay for the vaccine, especially ahead of time, don't. If you get a bill in error, call your provider, explain the issue and explore your reimbursement options. 

Scam: Requiring a virus test or antibody test before getting the vaccine

You don't need proof of a COVID-19 test to get the vaccine. Getty Images © Provided by CNET You don't need proof of a COVID-19 test to get the vaccine. Getty Images

You don't need proof of a COVID-19 virus test or an antibody test to get the vaccine. However, scammers have made an opportunity out of this as well, and are contacting people via phone, text and email requesting that people purchase and take a test. Advertisements of this nature are popping up online, too. 

Protect yourself: There's no requirement to take a COVID-19 test or antibody test before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, so ignore any phone calls, text messages, emails or advertisements that tell you to do so.

Scam: Paying to put your name on a waiting list

While there is technically a waiting list for COVID-19 vaccine doses, you don't have to pay to get on it -- everyone already is, starting with high-risk and high-priority people. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expects the vaccine to become available to the general public around midsummer to early fall in 2021, Forbes reports, so if you're not in a priority group as described in the vaccine rollout plan, don't expect to get your vaccine before then unless public health officials say otherwise.

Protect yourself: Ignore requests to pay a fee to get on a COVID-19 vaccine waitlist and don't provide personal or financial information to anyone asking you to do this. If you call a health care facility to register to get the vaccine, they may put you on a waitlist, but should not charge a fee.  

Scam: Getting the dose shipped to you for a fee

The vaccine isn't being shipped anywhere except to medical centers and pharmacies involved in the rollout. You cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine shipped to your home, and any advertisement that promises to do this is fake. Scammers may collect your personal or financial information this way.

Protect yourself: Knowing that you can't receive a COVID-19 vaccine anywhere other than a pharmacy or medical facility, don't attempt to get a vaccine shipped to your home. 

Scam: Emails, text messages and phone calls from fake vaccine centers and insurance companies

a person sitting at a table using a laptop: Don't give any information to an unsolicited caller or texter promising anything about a COVID-19 vaccine. Getty Images © Provided by CNET Don't give any information to an unsolicited caller or texter promising anything about a COVID-19 vaccine. Getty Images

You may receive an unsolicited message or call from someone claiming to work for a vaccine center, pharmacy or insurance company. These scammers might ask for personal and medical information to find out if you're eligible to receive the vaccine -- but everyone is eligible to receive the vaccine, just at different times.  

Protect yourself: Ignore phone calls and text messages from unfamiliar numbers. Don't open suspicious emails and definitely don't click any links or provide personal information. Also, when it's time for you to get the vaccine, only go to a reputable pharmacy or health care facility

Scam: Online ads for vaccine doses from unofficial sources

Scammers are advertising COVID-19 vaccines as if a vaccine is any other product you can order online. Any advertisement that doesn't come from an official public health source is likely attempting to lead you to a phishing website where scammers can steal your personal or financial information. 

Protect yourself: Ignore any ads from unofficial sources. Official public health sources include the CDC, WHO, FDA and other government agencies, as well as hospitals, pharmacies and other medical centers.

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