Local officials warn of COVID vaccine scams and misinformation

Law enforcement agencies are warning against a scam message claiming to be able to get you early access to the vaccine, months before they will become available to the general public.
Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 7:16 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - With a COVID-19 vaccine on the way to Eastern North Carolina hospitals, so are scammers and hackers.

Health officials and law enforcement are warning against recent calls, scams and phishing emails from people claiming they can get you early access to the coronavirus vaccine, months before it’s widely available to the public.

“There’s a lot of false information out there,” said Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Alyssa Antczak of the Onslow County Health Department. “If you get a phone call asking to reserve your spot in the vaccine line, that right there is a scam because that’s not something we would do.”

Law enforcement agencies say the scammers are already trying to pounce on the opportunity of taking advantage of the vaccine rollout, disguising themselves as health officials and attempting to get your personal information.

“They will ask you to get a gift card and provide them with the number,” said Col. Chris Thomas of the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office. “Once you do that, there’s no way to trace where the card was cashed in at.”

Some scams also claim that the vaccine isn’t safe to take, prompting health officials to differentiate between normal and abnormal side effects post-administration of the vaccine.

“You may have some pain at the injection site, some fever, some flu-like symptoms,” said Antczak. “Vaccination distribution will roll out in phases. So, for example, the first set of vaccines is going to be for the 1A phase, and that’s reserved for healthcare workers.”

Health officials say you should always fact check information with a reliable source and never open links sent from unsolicited contact. And law enforcement agencies say if you get contacted by someone claiming to have COVID-related resources, to never give out your personal information since, they say, health officials should already have that.

“People just need to guard their personal information really close,” said Thomas. “And just don’t give it to anybody who they don’t know, and they have not verified.”

Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it would be stepping up its patrol to stop potential vaccine fraud. Last week, they stopped more than 100,000 fake masks intended for hospital workers.

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