t has been an interesting year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scammers have already been out there preying on COVID-19 fears with phone calls, texts, social media and even door to door to steal your information. They have tried to sell fake cures and treatments. They have created apps that supposedly track COVID-19 cases but actually take over the device (computer or phone) to gather personal information. They also target government stimulus programs for small businesses.
Scammers have also started calling and texting people to schedule vaccine appointments for a fee. The appointments are not real and any funds you approve are gone. Vaccines are free. Scammers target senior citizens and others who are likely to believe what they are being told.
Protect yourself. As COVID-19 vaccine distribution begins, here are signs of potential scams:
• You are asked to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine.
• You are asked to pay to put your name on a vaccine waiting list or to get early access.
• Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online or from unsolicited/unknown sources.
• Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of the vaccine for payment.
Never click on a hyperlink sent to you anonymously. Scammers will mimic websites of legitimate pharmaceutical companies only to collect your personal information. The websites contain similar names, logos and graphics of the actual companies. I would only trust information from a legitimate and trusted caregiver.
An example would be, you phone your doctor or pharmacy and they tell you they are sending an email with a link in it for you to click on. Because you asked for the email link is the only reason I would trust that site.
• Do not give out your personal information to unknown sources. Anyone calling to schedule a vaccine appointment, doctor’s visit, pharmacy, Medicare, will not ask for your Social Security, credit card or bank account number.
If you have questions, call your doctor or trusted health care provider. If you suspect fraud, whether it is yourself or for someone you know, take action. Contact OIG.HHS.gov or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS (447-8477).
I appreciate hearing from many of you that you are taking precautions to prevent being scammed. I know I get a daily call to renew my extended car warranty. While this is an old scam, there are people who never have heard of it and pay money. Another old scam is getting a phone call from someone who says they need to remotely fix your computer. Last February someone in Gillette allowed an individual to access their computer and before their daughter found out and shut the computer down, the scammer had taken $1,600.
Scammers are vigilant and will do about anything to get you to do what they want you to do. This is what I would like from you. Tell people about this article. Call your kids, parents, neighbors or whomever. Make frauds and scams part of your daily conversation. We need to look out for one another. Scammers are not going away but we can make it more difficult if we all work together.
Keep informed as to scams in your area by visiting AARP.org/FraudWatchNetwork or call 1-877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect a scam. You can also learn more about issues affecting seniors by visiting AARP.org. You do not have to be a member or a senior to get invaluable information on this topic and others.
Jan Miller is on AARP Sheridan’s Community Action Team.