Jan. 6 (UPI) -- An FBI official said the agency is on watch for coronavirus vaccine scams in which criminals attempt to take advantage of those concerned about the pandemic and protection from the virus.
FBI Financial Crimes Section chief Steve Merrill said Tuesday that the scams are simply money grabs for opportunists, who will say virtually anything to make fast cash in the middle of the health crisis.
"We've been concerned about fraud schemes regarding the vaccine as soon as the vaccine went from an idea to reality," Merrill said. "The one thing that we've learned throughout this pandemic is that when there's money to be made, criminals will figure out how to do it."
Officials said they have already witnessed bogus websites advertising fake vaccines. Just before Christmas, the FBI, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a formal warning about such scams.
"[The scams seek to] obtain personally identifiable information and money through various schemes," the warning said. "We continue to work diligently with law enforcement partners and the private sector to identify cyber threats and fraud in all forms."
The FBI said the scam could develop in many forms such as offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee, asking for money to be put on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list, offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine, offers to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine or any unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or personal contact requesting personal information participate in clinical vaccine trials or to obtain the vaccine.
The FBI said residents should:
*Consult your state's health department website for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution channels and only obtaining a vaccine through such channels.
*Check the FDA's website (fda.gov) for current information about vaccine emergency use authorizations.
*Consult your primary care physician before undergoing any vaccination.
*Don't share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.
*Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits for any suspicious claims and promptly reporting any errors to your health insurance provider.
*Follow guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other trusted medical professionals.