COVID vaccine scams on social media, fake websites, bogus surveys try to steal your money

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone via WLS logo
Friday, April 9, 2021
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There are even more COVID-19 vaccine scams, on social media or in bogus surveys pretending to be from a manufacturer, that the FTC is warning consumers about.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As eligibility widens for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Federal Trade Commission said reports of vaccine scams are also increasing. Your social media and phones may be gateways for these fraud attempts.

The I-Team has reported vaccine schemes designed to get your cash and personal information. Now, new warnings sound the alarm about a sharp increase in bad actors trying to sell fake vaccines on social media .

"What we've seen is a huge increase in online threats around the vaccine," said Yoav Keren, a security tech expert at Brandshield.

Brandshield recently worked with the pharmaceutical industry and found an astonishing 2,100% increase in websites and social media posts using the word "vaccine." While most posts are harmless, experts said 5,000 websites were suspicious as were 20,000 social media posts, possibly selling fake COVID-19 vaccines. Remember, the vaccine is free.

"There's a huge threat out there," Keren said. "And there are basically the cyber criminals are trying to take advantage of the fact that people want to be the first in line, and they see a huge opportunity to make money over there, and this is what they're going after."

Consumer experts and organizations like the FTC and Better Business Bureau say, any ad or outreach via text, email or social media messaging services, where someone tries to get you to pay for a vaccine, is a scam. However, there may be legitimate outreach from companies to schedule appointments.

"If you see online, or on a on social media, or a page, or person offering you to buy a vaccine, it's a scam," warned Keren. "If you see, pharmaceutical, websites, pharmacy online, pharmacy offering you to buy a vaccine, it's a scam."

Brandshield captured images of websites that it found, trying to sell the vaccine. There are even websites which may look legitimate, like Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson. If you see them, or social media posts from them selling the vaccine, that company's website has been cloned or spoofed.

The FTC is also warning about a vaccine survey scam. These surveys look like they're coming from one of the three vaccine manufacturers, they ask you to pay a "shipping fee" in exchange for a "free reward."

No legitimate survey will ever ask you for a bank account information or a shipping fee.

Besides stealing your money, all of these fake vaccine websites can contain malware which can infect your computer or steal information from your device, when you click.