Scammers targeting victims with COVID-19 vaccine scams

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Doug Schmidt is a computer science professor at Vanderbilt University.

He said he’s not surprised that there are already warnings of online fraud surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine.

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“COVID-19 vaccine scams are just the latest incarnation in this ever-going cycle,” Schmidt said.

Interpol warned online consumers to be careful when looking for medical equipment or medicine related to the virus and potential vaccines.

Schmidt said cybercriminals are preying on the fear and lack of information some may have.

“What’s happening here of course is that people are impatient,” Schmidt said. “They want a cure. So, what’s happening is the scammers are taking advantage of that.”

Interpol’s Cybercrime Unit found that of the 3,000 websites tied to online pharmacies believed to sell illegal medicine, more than half “contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware.”

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Schmidt said that phishing emails are a big concern, with links asking to provide personal information and credit card numbers.

“That’s so easy to do,” he said. “You don’t even have to think that you’re buying something when in fact you can be giving away personal information that could be used later to target your identity.”

Some crimes Interpol said to watch out for include advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines.

Schmidt said the way to avoid getting fooled is to be cautious and rely on your trusted health care sources.  Remember, it’s not just your money at stake, it could be your health depending on what products you buy.

“Try as much as you possibly can to get your vaccines, when they’re available, from reputable sources,” he says. “Such as your doctor a minute clinic or some other trusted source. Ideally, one where you show up in person.”