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As COVID-19 vaccines roll out, authorities warn to watch out for more scammers

The Texas Department of State Health Services warned people via Twitter this week that scammers are impersonating Texas state agencies.

AUSTIN, Texas — As the world starts looking for the light at the end of the tunnel of COVID-19 with the rollout of a vaccine, it will still take months before everyone gets their opportunity to receive it.

The urgency to feel safe is a key target for scammers who are attempting to take advantage of people looking for the quickest route to the vaccine. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released a warning this week to be aware of people impersonating Texas government agencies to rip others off.

Multiple agencies are working to stop these scammers, including the FBI and the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Since the vaccine came out, the FBI has not received any complaints out of the Austin or San Antonio area regarding someone being a victim of fraud, according to Rosanne Hughes, FBI San Antonio Division.

However, with more than 400,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S., the urgency for the vaccine is high. 

Here are some examples of fraud the FBI warns about: 

  • Advertisements that state you can get the vaccine early with payment upfront
  • Paying out of pocket to get put on a waitlist
  • Getting a vaccine shipped to you
  • Anyone on the phone requesting personal or medical information in regard to the vaccine, including to receive the vaccine or to determine eligibility in a clinical trial
  • Individuals contacting you in person, by phone or by email to tell you the government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine

"They're going to prey on the fact that people don't know enough about the vaccine or where to get it. And there's also a sense of urgency to protect ourselves for most people," Heather Massey with the Better Business Bureau told KVUE.

To avoid becoming a victim of fraud, make sure to research the vaccine carefully and contact healthcare providers or the DSHS for vaccine distribution locations and signups. 

Make sure to check the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website to ensure the vaccine received emergency approval. Currently, those only include Moderna and Pfizer.  

Finally, never share any personal information over the phone. DSHS or contact tracers will never ask for your social security, credit card or other financial information.  

If you believe you have been the victim of a COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it to the FBI (ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov, or 1-800-CALL-FBI) or the Texas Comptroller.

To see more tips from the FBI to avoid fraud, visit the agency's website.

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