The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried warned consumers this week of scams surrounding availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Joining warnings from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), FDACS is providing consumer tips and spreading the message to ensure Floridians can avoid these scams.
“As the COVID vaccine becomes available, scammers are using this to take advantage — as Florida’s consumer protection agency, we’re working to help consumers stay safe and avoid falling victim,” said Fried. “Consumers should beware of any offers to ‘get on a wait list’ or ‘get moved up on the list,’ or receive expedited delivery of the vaccine, among other scam concerns. When in doubt, contact the FDACS Division of Consumer Services as we will look into all consumer complaints.”
Consumers Beware: Beware of any offers to “get on the waiting list,” “get moved up on the list,” or “expedite delivery,” or any requests for payment or personal information to gain access to the vaccine in any way, as these are the some of the biggest scam concerns at this time. Offers involving any form of payment to gain access to a vaccine may lead to receipt of a fake vaccine.
FDACS and Fried are encouraging consumers to:
- Seek information from trusted sources: When seeking vaccine information, consumers should turn to trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, their local county Department of Health office, or their physician. Avoid unverified information shared on social media platforms.
- Ignore solicitations: Do not respond to any solicitations about the vaccine, and do not give out personal information in response to unsolicited communications of any kind — calls, texts, emails, social media, or door-to-door visits.
- Report suspected fraud: If you believe you have received a solicitation that is a scam, report it to FDACS immediately by filing a consumer complaint. All consumer complaints will be looked into. Call us at 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA for Spanish speakers, or file a complaint online at FloridaConsumerHelp.com.
- The FDA has only authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use so far: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna
- Vaccines are not available for sale anywhere on the internet
- No one from a vaccine distributor, health care company, or private insurance company will ask for your Social Security number, personal credit card, or bank account information
- The vaccine is available in extremely limited quantities, so look to trusted sources like your doctor or local health department for guidance
- You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine or to get into a clinical trial — anyone offering to ship a vaccine to your home or provide special access to clinical trials is scamming you
- Doses purchased with taxpayer dollars will be provided at no cost; health care providers may charge an administration fee and have that fee reimbursed by insurance companies, and there are means of reimbursement for uninsured patients