We passed the one-year mark for the COVID-19 pandemic. Between safe practices and vaccines, we are moving from darkness back to sunlight. Sadly, the same cannot be said to scams and con artists who thrive on COVID. New scams have emerged focusing on vaccines.
Roughly 30 to 40 percent of the public is averse to vaccination and criminals know this. A number of the anti-vax postings in social media are counting on this hesitation. Text messages, emailings, and social media promote an attractive and acceptable alternative; a regimen of tablets or even a single capsule that provides the same, if not better protection from the virus.
While Pfizer scientists indicate that such a pill may be produced by the end of the year, there is no such remedy available anywhere in the world today.
These fake cures leave unprotective victims who pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for placebos. Even as bad as that is, this scam becomes worse. It endangers the public, encouraging unprotected people to forgo protective items and socialize.
This scam, as so many related to COVID, is a “perfect storm” and reinforces the need to remind readers of basic protective recommendations. It taps our underlying fear of the virus and our human desire to allay that fear. The scam reaches out to us personally with a simple solution — a pill (Excuse the pun but a pill is much easier for most of us to swallow than a series of injections).
This is a case of wishing something to be true to the point of clouding judgement. Consider this: if a simple remedy, “pop a pill and Covid goes away,” was available it would be blaring across the media, on the front pages of newspapers, and on the Amber Alert signs everywhere, not coming to you as an overnight email message.
So, tip No. 1: Don’t let emotion overtake you. Step back and think before you act and consider what is offered. These criminals want you to be emotional and act immediately. Ignore the message to act now.
Tip No. 2: Ask questions. Is the remedy approved by the FDA? Can you send me the results of the clinical trials? What company manufactures the product? Odds are that the answer to these questions will be no!
Tip No. 3: Consider how the seller wants payment? Any mention of gift cards is a dead giveaway that this is a scam.
Tip No. 4: Beware of targeted emails. These things are very deceptive. In particular, examine the email address of the sender. Gmail, Ymail, Hotmail addresses are not used by businesses.
Tip No. 5: Conduct background research. Check with your state department of health. They would know if such a cure existed. Sometimes a simple “Googling” will reveal the truth.
Tip No. 6: Report the crime. These offers are criminal so call or go online to your state consumer assistance agency or attorney general’s office and file a report. The crime can be reported at the national level with the FTC.
By the way, these tips can be applied to other offers and deals that raise the question “Is this too good to be true.”
A second new COVID scam is gaining popularity with the same negatives as what was described above. Criminals discovered that there is a lucrative business in the sale of bogus COVID vaccine cards.
The process is actually quite easy and requires very little sophistication. Obtain a valid vaccine card displaying the details of a complete vaccine administration. Scan the card on a relatively inexpensive scanner and use editing software to change the name on the card and you have “proof” of vaccination. (Fake cards are also available on the internet for $100 — $200).
With card in hand you can go to sporting events, take commercial flights, attend concerts and much more. If you receive an offer for one of these cards, file a report with the FBI at www.ic3.gov.
Want a free list of fraud-fighting resources? Questions? Comments? Contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, “Mr. Scammer,” distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, Vt.,