Slow Vaccine Roll-Out Leaves Door Open to Scammers

Mature businessman with mask using digital tablet at work.
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As most people are eagerly waiting to get a COVID-19 vaccine, scammers are surging all over the U.S. and in Europe, offering easy access — for a fee.

As of Monday, only 4.5 million shots have been administered since the vaccine has been available in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Initial projections estimated that 20 million shots would be administered before the end of the 2020. People are getting anxious about the vaccine’s slow roll-out, and scammers are taking advantage of it.

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The FBI released a statement asking the public to be on the lookout for these scammers. It said that some signs to be aware of include being asked to pay out of pocket for the vaccine, or being  asked to pay for early access or a spot on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list. The statement also mentions to be wary of vaccine advertisements coming through online platforms, including social media, and through email or telephone calls, as well as ads from unsolicited and unknown sources. Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of the vaccine domestically or internationally in exchange for a payment are also suspect.

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INTERPOL has issued a global alert to law enforcement across its 194 member countries warning them to prepare for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online. The alert outlines potential criminal activity involving individuals who are advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines.

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“As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains,” INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said in a statement. “Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives. It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a former full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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