Key Takeaways

  • Whenever there's a health crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers will find ways to capitalize on fear, anxiety, and confusion.

  • Scammers are now using the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to steal older adults’ Medicare numbers and personal information.

  • Don’t fall for common COVID-19 vaccine scams like jumping to the head of the line, surveys, and vaccines for sale.

Fraudsters are always looking for ways to scam people, and the COVID-19 public health emergency has been no exception. They’ve promoted false cures, sold phony personal protective equipment, given people illegitimate COVID tests, and billed Medicare for sham tests and treatments. Now, they are targeting vaccines.

These bad actors’ goals are simple: to obtain personal information, which they can use to steal your personal and/or medical identity, or to outright steal your money.

Here are some vaccination scams, based on reports from the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) National Resource Center, law enforcement, and news stories:

Head-of-the-line Vaccine Scams

Scammers call and say you can get your vaccine early by providing your Medicare number or other personal information. They may ask for a payment upfront and/or insurance information in order to be placed on a priority waiting list for a vaccine you may never receive.

            Don’t fall for it. You cannot pay to get in line for a vaccine.

Survey Vaccine Scams

Some scammers will impersonate legitimate vaccine providers and use “doctored” information such as logos and phone numbers to send enticing vaccine surveys that are offering money, gifts, or other incentives. The messages may also claim to be urgent, giving a timeframe of expiration to get you to click on their deceptive link to gain personal information.

            Don’t fall for it. A vaccine survey offering you an incentive or stating a sense of urgency to complete is a red flag. You should double check logos and phone numbers and hover over links to see if they are long and suspicious. Don’t click on them.  

Vaccine Trial Scams

There are numerous clinical research trials in the race to develop additional COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and cures. Legitimate clinical trials may offer payments to participants under well-defined legal guidelines. However, career criminals know the offer of a paid clinical trial is also an opportunity for financial identity theft.

            Don’t fall for it. Be wary of unsolicited emails, calls, or personal contacts requesting personal information. The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning in October 2020 with helpful hints to determine whether a trial is legitimate.

Vaccines-for-Sale Scams

Scammers are setting up fake websites offering to sell vaccines or vaccine kits. Some are imitating legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturers. In some cases, scammers were asking for payment for vaccines and/or kits via a credit card and sending payment to a specific credit union.

            Don’t fall for it. You can’t buy a vaccine.

For More Information About Vaccine Scams Affecting Older Adults

  • If you think you have been a victim of Medicare fraud, errors, or abuse, contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-877-808-2468 or on our website by clicking “Find Help in Your State.”
  • Visit the SMP National Resource Center’s COVID-19 Fraud webpage.
  • If you have questions related to Medicare billing for COVID-19 vaccines, call 1-800-Medicare or visit their Medicare COVID-19 billing webpage.