On Monday, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and Commissioner Nikki Fried joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) to warn consumers of fraudulent efforts to scam individuals out of money and personal information for COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccine should always be free, regardless of insurance, and cannot be purchased online.
“As Floridians are taking advantage of the COVID-19 vaccine availability for all adults, scammers are ramping up their efforts — as Florida’s consumer protection agency, we’re working to help consumers stay informed and vigilant,” said Fried. “These vaccines should never come with any out-of-pocket cost to consumers, nor can they be purchased online. Contact us at the FDACS Division of Consumer Services with any concerns and we will look into all consumer complaints.”
Fried offered the following tips to avoid COVID-19 vaccine-related scams:
Ignore online ads, social media posts, or phone calls from people offering to sell you the COVID-19 vaccine. You can’t buy it — anywhere. The vaccine is only available at federal- and state-approved locations.
Don’t pay to sign up for the vaccine. Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line is a scammer.
Don’t pay out of pocket for a vaccine — not before, during, or after your appointment. That’s either a scam or a mistake. If you’re insured, the vaccination site might bill your insurance company for an administration fee. If you’re not insured, there’s a fund set up with the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA — part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) where sites can recover their administrative costs. Either way, though, they’re not supposed to bill you or charge a co-pay.
Never share your personal, financial, or health information with people you don’t know. No one from a vaccine distribution site, health care provider’s office, pharmacy, or health care payer, like a private insurance company or Medicare, will call, text, or email you asking for your credit card or bank account number to sign you up to get the vaccine. And remember, you’re not required to give your Social Security number to a vaccination site. You shouldn’t be turned away.
Contact a trusted source for information. Check with state or local health departments to learn when and how to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also talk with your health care provider or pharmacist.
Don’t post your vaccination card to your social media account. Your vaccination card has information on it including your full name, date of birth, where you got your vaccine, and the dates you got it. When you post it to Facebook, Instagram, or to some other social media platform, you may be handing valuable information over to someone who could use it for identity theft.
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. You may also contact the FTC about it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Or, file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general through consumerresources.org, the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.