Scammers are cybercriminals are taking advantage of COVID-19 and the recently released vaccines to prey on people anxiously waiting.
“Since January, we’ve seen over 5,000 websites registered that include the word ‘vaccine’,” says BrandShield CEO Yoav Keren. BrandShield is a company that hunts down fake websites and takes them down. He says the scam websites post a major threat to people by using their weaknesses of wanting to be first in line for the vaccinations.
“These scams are becoming more and more sophisticated,” Keren said. “These cybercriminals are just able to really deceive people in a really smart way.”
Some of the websites discovered by BrandShield appear to be from legitimate pharmaceutical companies offering a vaccine shipped directly to the victim in order to avoid long lines and wait times. They’ve also discovered posts and pages on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
In only a few minutes of searching, I ran across a tweet from someone who said their “sister’s dealer is now selling Moderna COVID vaccines” on Snapchat. Photos attached show two vials or bottles that look like actual vaccine doses. The post had nearly 82,000 likes and 13.9 thousand retweets.
“No one will sell a vaccine. No company sells a vaccine on Twitter or Facebook or on eCommerce platforms,” Teren said. “This is not real. This is not happening. No one does that.
No one would sell you on social media, no one sells vaccines with bitcoin. This is just fake. Do not buy!”
The Federal Trade Commission issued a consumer warning to anyone wanting to receive the vaccine sooner rather than later.
Don’t pay to sign up for the vaccine. Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line is a scammer.
Ignore sales ads for the COVID-19 vaccine. You can’t buy it. Anywhere. Including online pharmacies. The vaccine is only available at federal and state-approved locations.
Watch for unexpected or unusual texts. Don’t click on links in text messages, especially messages you didn’t expect. If you get a text, call your health care provider or pharmacist directly to make sure they sent the text.
Don’t open emails, attachments, or links from people you don’t know or that come unexpectedly. You could download dangerous malware onto your computer or phone.
Don’t share your personal, financial, or health information with people you don’t know.
If you do receive any communication from a scammer you’re encouraged to report it to the FTC and the FBI.