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Scams likely to heat up after COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Sometimes, scam alerts get out there to warn consumers about an ongoing trouble spot – such as a flurry of robocalls from someone pretending to be from DTE Energy and ready to shut off your heat or someone pretending to be from Amazon or Apple support as you’re shopping online.

Other times, consumer watchdogs want to get the word out ahead of the curve. They’re not hearing from upset consumers just yet, but they know that scammers are waiting in the wings and ready to pounce. Enter the warnings about scams and COVID-19 vaccines. Limited supplies of some vaccines could be out before Christmas – but again, we’re not talking about a wide supply. And it’s expected that frontline health care workers will get vaccinated first. Who’s sure to have the hard-to-get vaccines? Criminal networks are ready to roll out counterfeit versions of approved vaccines, much like fake Gucci bags and Nike sneakers.

What kind of vaccine scams can we expect?
Already, consumer watchdogs are hearing reports of imposters claiming to be Social Security Administration workers in order to get sensitive information from people. “For example, the scammer calls saying that they are from the Social Security Administration and they’re calling to sign the person up to receive their vaccine,” said Jon Miller Steiger, director of the East Central Region for the Federal Trade Commission. The regional office, based in Cleveland, serves Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

As part of the sign-up, the scammer is going to ask for important information such as your Medicare number, name, address and possibly bank account information.

“This is a scam,” Steiger said.

“The Social Security Administration will not sign you up to receive a vaccine and will not ask for sensitive information by phone, email or text.”