As more states open up COVID-19 vaccine appointments to all adult residents, demand is far outpacing supply. “Vaccine hunter” websites, online forums, and social media groups have sprung up, offering to help people find open appointments and leftover vaccine doses in their area. While most of these websites and online groups are legitimate resources, this situation is an ideal opportunity for scammers. Use caution when following links or providing personal information.
Many vaccine hunting social media groups provide practical tips in finding open appointments, but they can also be a place for scammers to push phony vaccines and other cons. Centralized vaccine availability websites, similar to airfare aggregation sites, scan the databases of vaccine providers, such as CVS or Rite Aid, for availability. VaccineFinder.org is one such site promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These websites can be handy tools, but be wary of lookalike sites that collect personal information or require payment.
Tips for avoiding cons while finding a vaccine appointment:
- Always go through official public health channels and approved providers to get a vaccine appointment. In the US, COVID-19 vaccines are only available through official providers, such as your local public health department or a pharmacy. The exact providers differ by region, but you can find the list for your area using VaccineFinder.org. Aggregation sites should always point you to the official providers to schedule your appointment.
- Anyone claiming to sell vaccine doses is a scam. Be wary of anyone who claims to have doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. This report from Digital Citizens Alliance found scam Facebook pages advertising vaccines made in China. While the pages didn’t actively promote sales of the drug, the scammers offered to sell the phony vaccine after being contacted through Facebook Messenger.
- Don’t pay to add your name to a waiting list or to get the vaccine. BBB Scam Tracker has gotten reports about con artists charging for fake vaccine appointments. The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States. Vaccine providers cannot charge you for the vaccine. Any claim otherwise is a scam.
- Be very careful about giving out personal information. You don’t need your bank account details, credit card information, or Social Security number to schedule a vaccine appointment.
- Always double check the URL before entering personal information. Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. Be careful that the link is really what it claims to be. If the message claims to be from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov (for the United States). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website or call the source directly.
- Research offers carefully. Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Double check any information about the vaccine with official news sources.
For more information
BBB has identified many ways in which scammers are cashing in the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about clinical trial scams, contract tracing cons, counterfeit face masks, and government agency imposters.
If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.
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