It’s a tale as old as time—no matter where we go as a race, there are always going to be ne’er-do-wells on the fringes trying to get ahead, often at the expense of others.
COVID-19 fraud is a burgeoning and fascinating new area of contention in federal law enforcement. It comes in many forms, and you might already be a victim.
Little known fact: it’s actually super illegal to misrepresent yourself as fully vaccinated when you’re not. Here are a couple of innovative ways that scammers try to skirt COVID-19 law, either to get rich quick or to get around COVID-19 restrictions.
1. Fake government “officials”
It’s awful, but it’s true. Hapless victims receive calls from people impersonating the authorities, often asking for personal information, payment details, and even things like your Medicare information. This will usually be in exchange for stimulus payments and other forms of assistance.
If the person on the line is demanding payment up-front or behaves aggressively toward you when you decline, you’re likely dealing with something suspicious. Simply ask to be directed to the official online portal—if they can’t provide one or the one that they give you is fake, step away and block the number if possible.
2. Vaccine card identity fraud
Some people are willing to do absolutely anything if it means skipping out on their jab. Others will sell this information to clients trying to do the same.
One foolproof way to protect yourself is to keep your own vaccination card under wraps. Sharing your vaccination status generically, with no identifying information attached, shouldn’t put you or yours in danger.
3. Blank vaccination card scams
Blank vaccine cards have been found on many online marketplaces, including Amazon. Whether being sold under the guise of a joke or as a serious attempt to turn a profit, these listings should be avoided at all costs. Criminal mastermind, or entrepreneurial genius?
Buying a blank vaccination card and trying to pass it off as real is not kosher, and could potentially put you in a world of hurt. In many cases, it might literally be easier (and cheaper!) to simply vax up legitimately.
4. COVID-19 crypto scams
No paper trail? No problem. Many crypto fraudsters will attempt to extort their victims through emails or letters, threatening to expose their families to the virus or perhaps to release your private COVID-19 information or status as blackmail.
Some of the more creative criminals here will ask for weird donations or investments for obscure causes. In either case, you may be asked to stuff an agreed-upon cryptocurrency wallet, lest you suffer the consequences.
In other scenarios, the scammer might be trying to sell you illegitimate COVID-19 treatment, vaccines, or even fake vaccination credentials, all without exchanging one cent of cold, hard, American money. As if cryptocurrency wasn’t controversial enough.
What should you do if you get scammed?
If they have your information, your due course of action will resemble the same for any type of identity theft. Watch your bank accounts, change all of your passwords, and report the problem formally, if possible.
Those who haven’t yet been scammed should remain in the clear as long as they can avoid sharing personal information publicly—posting your vaccination card online is one example of a risky move, as mentioned above. Never hand over any money or info to a courier you don’t know or trust. Additionally, you should always verify that any websites and apps that you use in relation to your COVID care are, indeed, from the official source. Double-check the URL and email address. If possible, always try to get in touch with a real human being affiliated with your provider.