On Your Side: COVID-19 vaccine scams to watch out for

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — On the first Monday of the new year, the FBI is reminding everyone to remain vigilant as scammers continue to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for personal gain.

With vaccine doses being given, criminals are hungry for cash, calling and texting anyone they can reach trying to steal their money.

Con-artists are claiming they can get you the vaccine, but for a price.

Some crooks have created online ads for vaccine tourism, packages touting airfare, hotel room, and meals along with a coronavirus vaccine dose. Of course, none of it is true.

There are other hoaxes that scam artists are trying to pull off as well, all while the vaccines are being rolled out.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people eligible for the coronavirus vaccine lined up in Knoxville to receive shots. 500 doses of the vaccine were given out on a first come, first serve basis to a select group of people.

The same was true in Sevierville where people waited in vehicles to receive their shot in the first mass rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Front line workers, first responders and those 75 and older were eligible.

Because of the sharp rise of people coming down with the virus, scam artists are taking advantage of people desperate for the vaccine.

“Desperation is the thing that makes people fall victim in a lot of cases. You are desperate for money, you are desperate for a vaccine. You want to get it and there are limited quantities. So, you better act now or you are not going to get it. So, they put pressure on you to try to get you to act immediately without talking to anybody else.”

Tony Binkley BBB President

Tony Binkley, president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee, says East Tennessee residents must remain on high alert as scammers are out to exploit distribution of the vaccine.

The Department of Health and Human Services says listen to trusted sources, your doctor or local health department for guidance.

Do not send any form of payment to someone claiming they can provide you with the vaccine. And do not respond to any solicitations about the vaccine.

Around East Tennessee, some county health departments are using multiple strategies to help administer vaccinations, including large clinics and appointments.

However, demand is tremendous, so it has been difficult to get in touch with health departments.

Much like COVID-19 testing at the beginning of the pandemic, it will take time for vaccinations to become widely available.

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