As the COVID-19 vaccine begins to be distributed in Iowa, scams are being reported that are preying on those who are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection, such as older adults. Protect yourself and your loved ones by knowing the facts, say Sarah Francis, Jeongeun Lee and Barb Wollan, human sciences specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Francis is an associate professor and nutrition and wellness state specialist. Lee is an assistant professor and family life state specialist. Wollan is a family finance specialist. They note that a variety of vaccine scams are circulating.
“These scammers are selling a ticket to guarantee a place on a waiting list to get the COVID vaccine or requesting you pay a fee for the vaccine or asking for personal information like your social security number, bank account information or credit card number to schedule a vaccination. None of these statements are true,” Francis said.
“The vaccine is free,” Lee said. “Although the vaccine is not yet available to the public, there is no waiting list. The only charge to an individual associated with the vaccine would be if you make an appointment with your doctor. Then the clinic can charge for an office visit, but not the vaccine.”
Wollan said, “It is never wise to give out personal or financial information when you did not initiate the contact.”
The specialists recommend protecting yourself from future scams by learning some red flags:
- Being contacted out of the blue. This can be emails, letters, calls or texts requesting you pay a fake invoice or a phony debt collection notice. Scammers hope consumers will pay before checking their records.
- Learning that you have won a prize, but to redeem it you must first send money. Legitimate companies do not require prize winners to pay first.
- Receiving a message asking you to provide financial or personal information. Banks, credit card companies and government rarely ask consumers to provide personal information and don’t do so by phone, email or text message.
- Being told to act quickly. Scammers appeal to your sense of urgency to get people to pay before having time to think through the situation.
- It sounds too good to be true. That likely means it’s false.
For more Iowa COVID-19 information visit https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/. To learn more about the vaccine, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health website, https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus/Vaccine. You can also call your local public health office with questions or concerns.