Virus Outbreak US Surge

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2020, file photo, boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss. While shipments of the vaccine are rolling out to many health care workers and nursing homes across the country, it could be months before it’s available for the general public.

Now that the first health care workers have rolled up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines, law enforcement officials warn that scams are sure to follow.

While the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office is not aware of any COVID-19 scams perpetrated on residents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has received complaints from across the country.

Just two months into the pandemic, the FBI had already received more than 3,600 COVID-19 scam complaints involving fraudsters operating bogus charity drives and advertising fake vaccines and cures.

The Better Business Bureau, too, has sounded the alarm.

A July study by the bureau found 44% of Americans had been contacted by a government imposter who may have provided a badge number and, in some cases, personal information to be more convincing. Among the most common U.S. agencies imitated are the IRS, Social Security Administration and, following the federal government’s coronavirus economic relief package, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Treasury Department.

The government imposter — according to the Federal Trade Commission — is the most common and lucrative type of reported fraud, bilking Americans of more than $450 million since 2014.

Officials warn it might be a scam if:

- You’re asked to pay for or put your name on a waiting list for early access to the vaccine.

- You receive unsolicited vaccine ads on social media.

- Marketers offer to ship doses to you for a fee.

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General offers these tips:

- Double check websites and emails purporting to come from government agencies. For example, a rip-off artist may use cdc.com or cdc.org instead of cdc.gov.

- Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies or treatment for COVID-19 that request your personal information.

- Do not click on links or open email attachments from people you do not know. Doing so could result in unwittingly downloading a virus to your computer or device.

Consumers who have been the victim of a scam can file a complaint with the OAG at scams@attorneygeneral.gov.


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