CLEVELAND — As we inch closer to the release of a COVID-19 vaccine, crooks are intensifying their efforts to capitalize on the hope and hype.
Since the start of the pandemic, our fears and frustrations have been exploited for financial gain.
“It’s been a perfect storm for criminals and scammers, that’s for sure," said Sue McConnell, BBB Greater Cleveland. "They’re taking full advantage of what we’re all going through."
Scammers are now setting their sights on our hopes for brighter days.
“It does make us all more vulnerable. They will ramp-up as soon as the vaccine becomes available. This is the time to be really on alert,” said McConnell.
McConnell is warning consumers about all the ways scammers are hoping to trick them.
McConnell said to watch out for “emails, texts, calls to either try to promote obtaining the vaccine, or trying to get your personal information so you’re eligible for the vaccine."
Katharine Van Tassel, a visiting law professor at Case Western Reserve University has been studying food and drug laws for more than two decades.
“It’s a very big concern for the FDA,” said Van Tassel.
Van Tassel is encouraging everyone to engage in self-protection, so you don’t fall victim.
Van Tassel said there are “70,000 websites that the FDA has investigated for COVID-19 product fraud."
Once a vaccine is available to the general public, Van Tassel said to make sure it’s a branded vaccine, not a fake, and the person you get it from is licensed.
“In many states, the pharmacists are going to be able to administer the vaccine,” said Van Tassel.
Chances are there will be websites out there that appear to be from a reputable pharmacy, but take a closer look.
“People won’t know to look for Walgreens instead of 'Walgrens,' and they may be taken in,” said Van Tassel.
The vaccine they offer could leave people at risk.
Van Tassel said one worry is “people being scammed and thinking they’re getting a treatment and then going out into the world thinking they’re protected and then they get COVID. That would just be a terrible tragedy."
While it may seem to be a legit website, never purchase a vaccine over the internet.
“That goes for any COVID-19 treatment,” said Van Tassel.
Also, be on the lookout for unsolicited offers on social media for at-home treatments while you wait to be vaccinated and closely monitor your phone calls.
“Scammers can spoof the caller ID to make it look like they’re calling you from a valid healthcare provider,” said McConnell.