Taking back the ID

Fraudsters find novel ways to steal money and PII

Identity-theft fraudsters with no consciences use any opportunity to find new victims. Witness attempts to rip off vaccine hunters, caring grandparents and desperate job seekers.

Joe Johnson spent hours on websites trying to set an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Then he received a text saying that the county health department was offering shots for a small fee. Johnson clicked on the message, was redirected to a website, set a date and entered his credit card number. He waited several days for a confirmation that never came. Johnson contacted the health department, where officials told him they didn’t have a record of his appointment and that they didn’t charge for vaccines. He then found the fraudsters had billed his online credit card statement. Johnson was conned. And he still wasn’t vaccinated.

This case is fictional, but it represents a typical COVID-19 vaccine scam.

Scamming shots in the arm

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reminding the public that COVID-19 vaccines are free. Fraudsters are often loading malware onto victims’ computers and stealing personally identifiable information (PII) by selling supposed shots online. (See Covid Vaccines are FREE! by Colleen Tressler, FTC, April 20, 2021.)

“Ignore online ads, social media posts, or phone calls from people offering to sell you the COVID-19 vaccine,” Tressler writes. “You can’t buy it [in the U.S.] — anywhere. The vaccine is only available at federal- and state-approved locations.”

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