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Officials Warn Of COVID-19 Vaccine Scams As More Consumers Fall For Pandemic Fraud Schemes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Scammers have been taking full advantage of the pandemic and are now shifting focus to the COVID-19 vaccine.

With demand high and a limited supply of the vaccine, the Better Business Bureau and multiple government agencies are warning consumers about the latest pandemic-related scam.

"With information constantly changing and evolving as well, it makes it difficult for consumers to know what's real and what's fake," said Caitlin Driscoll of the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania.

Driscoll says the scam can come over the phone or online, convincing people to pay or give personal information for a fake vaccine or a spot on a vaccine waiting list.

"Even that you're eligible to receive a vaccine earlier in exchange for payment or for providing personal information," she said of the scam.

One major sign that a call or email is a scam is that the scammer is posing as someone from a government agency.

"It's not very likely someone from the CDC, World Health Organization is going to contact you regarding the vaccines," Driscoll adds.

The Better Business Bureau suggests researching scams to know what to expect. If the offer for a vaccine seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

They also warn consumers to avoid providing personal or payment information on impulse to people online or over the phone. Scammers tend to convince people to act without thinking.

In addition, the BBB wants consumers to read web links they're sent before clicking on them. Make sure links that appear to be from the government end in .gov.

"Verify the information that someone is telling you directly with a government agency or your physician's website," Driscoll said.

She adds scams have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic.

According to BBB data, 66 percent of people who reported a scam since March lost money.

Scammers seem to be having the most success online, with faulty websites being the top way consumers are losing money to scams.

Though the elderly are typically considered the most frequent victims of scams, the BBB data shows that since March, those 35 to 54 years old were scammed the most. Women were more susceptible than men.

The Pennsylvania Health Department has compiled a list on its website of frequent COVID-19 scams, plus tips for dealing with them.

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