As the world makes steady progress towards ending the pandemic, the road ahead is still a long one. Previously unforeseen obstacles can pop up at any time and skew the trajectory of how the world handles Covid-19. One obstacle, in particular, that is on the rise currently is phishing scams.
The vaccine is here. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are leading the charge with effective vaccines. However, with such a high demand for these vaccines, it’s difficult to distribute the vaccines quickly, especially in a country like the United States with massive populations.
Due to the high value of these vaccines, significant security risks such as phishing scams are spreading quickly. They attempt to gather personal information from individuals, usually scamming them to get money or something else of high value. Now, amidst efforts to rapidly rollout vaccine doses to each state, it’s more critical than ever to watch out for vaccine phishing scams.
Phishing Scams on the Rise
Phishing scams are not new. In fact, they’ve been around for many years — and they also found renewed momentum at the beginning of the pandemic. At the start of 2020, people were curious, and they wanted answers about COVID-19. When the pandemic hit the United States, people then became desperate for information. They needed resources and financial help immediately.
This reliance on technology and the internet, in turn, caused a massive spike in phishing scams. In the first couple of weeks of the pandemic alone, reports showed a 350% increase in phishing websites. These sites would promise to provide information or financial resources, but would ultimately be detrimental to the individual.
Now, history is repeating itself. As the States and the world rely on the vaccine to quash the pandemic, people are eager to get it. They want to know more about it, too — when they can get it, where they can get it, if it will cost money and how effective it will be. Scammers understand this need and have begun sending out phishing scams once again.
These scams can come in the form of a text, phone call, social media message, email or even an in-person visit. The scam may offer to pay for the victim’s vaccine, offer a place in line for money, offer information about eligibility, offer the vaccine itself or offer an alternative “cure” or “solution” for treating covid.
If the target of the scam provides them with any personal or financial information, the scammers can steal money or identity.
Steps for the Best Protection
Federal agencies like the FBI have issued warnings about phishing scams that offer vaccine information. It’s critical that no one falls victim to these fake offers and promises. To avoid them, individuals must remain skeptical of all sketchy offers. If it seems too good to be true, then it may in fact, be.
First and foremost, no early access to the vaccine is available. Any scam that promises exclusive access to an individual is a lie. Residents can check their local and state guidelines on when they qualify for the vaccine. If they don’t fall into the category, then they know to wait. If they do, they’ll want to find the official vaccination sites and confirm how the site will contact them.
If a scam impersonates these sites, the resident can look for signs that the email is off. Spelling mistakes, sketchy sender addresses and suspicious links or attachments are all indications of a scam. The scam could be something as simple as a text asking if the recipient is getting a vaccine. A reply could send a phone bill charge that could leave the recipient vulnerable.
Individuals should also keep in mind that they will most likely not have to pay anything for the vaccine. Offers to pay on someone’s behalf are a scam. No one should give out any personal or financial information.
A Safe Way to Vaccines
If something looks off, then it probably is. When in doubt, look to the officials — governments and healthcare providers, though official contact channels will be the best resources for information. This way, everyone can get the vaccines when eligible, in safe and secure ways. Then, the pandemic can gradually and finally come to an end.