Now that the COVID-19 vaccine distribution has begun, U.S. Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr. urges South Carolinians to be on high alert for fraudsters seeking to take advantage of the pandemic.
“Having already seen supply scams, provider scams, economic impact scams, phishing scams, and even charity scams related to COVID-19 across the country, every South Carolinian should be extra cautious for the possibility of phony websites and other outreach claiming early access to the vaccine,” McCoy said in a release. “Everyone, particularly seniors and their caretakers, should be on high alert for fraudsters seeking to take advantage of their most vulnerable neighbors.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, through the beginning of December, over 250,000 consumer complaints related to coronavirus were registered, with most of these cases involving fraud or identity theft. McCoy added that people must be careful and understand that there are many ways for offenders to take advantage of others.
“Be it through robocalls, texts, emails, or other means of communication, the potential for continued Coronavirus scams could be as rampant as the disease itself,” McCoy said. “Not only do these criminals victimize the recipient of the scam, but they can also cast doubt for many others to trust the legitimate work being done by honest, reliable providers.”
McCoy advises people to be vigilant and follow the tips below:
- Know that you can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine or to get early access to the vaccine
- Know that no legitimate vaccine distribution site or health care provider will call asking for your Social Security, banking, or credit card numbers to sign up to get a vaccine
- Beware of people offering other products, treatments, or medicines to prevent the virus. Always check with a health care professional before paying for any treatment.
- Never send money or give out personal information to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons
If you have been a victim of a scam, please contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or visit them online at www.justice.gov/coronavirus.