FBI, ICE issue warning about COVID-19 vaccine scams

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two COVID-19 vaccines are on the market and making their way across the nation.

Many of us have been following every update in this process including scammers!

The Better Business Bureau has already tracked 141 vaccine-related scams nationwide.

“The crooks follow the headlines, they prey on people’s emotions and I can’t think of anything in recent times that hits both of those points as the COVID vaccine,” said Randy Hutchinson, President and CEO of the BBB of the Mid-South.

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Hutchinson said most of these scams involve crooks sending fake messages inviting people to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial. He said they’re preying on your anxiety as the vaccine becomes more available.

“We can expect the crooks to ramp up their efforts proportionally. The longer we go, the more people get nervous, ready to get there’s and crooks will try to take advantage of that,” said Hutchinson.

These scams are catching the attention of federal agents, who just sent out a warning.

The FBI warns some of the fraud may look like ads for early access to a vaccine after paying a deposit or fee, requests for money to receive the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list and even offers to sell the vaccine doses.

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“An ad would come up on social media that would lead to you providing you credit card information, your credit card information then gets captured and you may or may not get the shipments,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Harley Ray Shuler with Homeland Security.

Even Homeland Security is tracking these scams too. U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been seizing counterfeit and illegal pandemic related goods since April.

Recently the agency launched Operation Stolen Promise 2.0, focusing on phony COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

“We’re seeing numerous counterfeit PPE shipments coming into the United States from foreign counties, we’ve seen thousands of fraudulent test kits and just recently we’ve seen some unapproved treatments,” said Agent Shuler.

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No one should be paying for a COVID-19 vaccine, so the BBB if someone asks you to pay for the vaccine, that’s an automatic red flag.

Additionally, the Better Business Bureau said there are so many free tools to determine if something is or isn’t a scam. For example, a quick Google search or giving their office a call.

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