Identified Scam:

Don't Fall for This COVID Vaccine Scam: Vaccines Are Free

If you're being charged for the COVID-19 vaccine, you're being scammed. The vaccine is free to all U.S. residents and you cannot buy the vaccine online.


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Updated 14 July 2021
Don't Fall for This COVID Vaccine Scam: Vaccines Are Free
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Identified Scam:

Key Finding

Scammers pretend to sell you a COVID-19 vaccine or appointment to be vaccinated.


Key Risk

Once you pay the scammer, your money will be gone, and you won't be given the vaccine. Remember, the COVID-19 vaccine is free. Anyone trying to sell it to you is a scammer.

Sections on this page
  1. What Is the COVID Vaccine Scam?
  2. How to Beat and Avoid COVID Vaccine Scams
  3. Examples of the COVID Vaccine Scam
  4. Fallen for the COVID-19 Vaccine Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

The key thing to remember to beat this scam is that COVID-19 vaccines are free. Any attempt to sell you the vaccine is all part of a COVID vaccine scam and you should cease contact with the person immediately.

What Is the COVID Vaccine Scam?

Scammers have taken advantage of the recent pandemic to scam people out of their money and information. Here’s how the COVID vaccine scam works.

You Receive a Call, Text, or Email About the Vaccine

In this scam, someone will reach out to you via phone, email, or text. Depending on their agenda, they will try to sell you an appointment to be vaccinated or sell you an “actual” vaccine.

The scammer will try to pressure you to accept their offer. If they are trying to get you to pay for an appointment, they may tell you that appointments in your local area are limited.

If they are trying to sell you a vaccine, they may offer to sell it to you for a special price. They may also say that they are selling it to you under the table at a lower price or giving you a chance to buy the vaccine and have it sent to you directly.

Whatever the message, they will try to make you feel like you’re getting a great deal, and you shouldn’t wait.

Example Scam Message

Contact us to order your COVID-19 Vaccine:

  • Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine: $150/vial
  • Moderna Covid 19 Vaccine: $180/vial
  • Sinovac SARS-cov-2 vaccine: $100/vial
  • Astrazeneca Covid 19 Vaccine: $110/vial

Shipping

  • Ice packed
  • Stealth packaging
  • Double vacuum seeling
  • provide Tracking Number

They Ask for Money and/or Information

If you agree to take the offer, the scammer will ask for money and/or your personal information. To process payment, they may ask for your banking or credit card details and even your personal information like your Social Security number (SSN), email address, or home address.

Your Money Is Stolen

Once you give your money and information to the scammer, they will disappear, and you will never receive anything in return—no vaccine, vaccine appointment, or anything.

How to Beat and Avoid COVID Vaccine Scams

One key way to avoid the COVID vaccine scam is to remember that COVID-19 vaccinations are free! Moreover, you can’t buy COVID-19 vaccines online, and there’s no out-of-pocket cost to get the shots, even if you don’t have health insurance.

When it comes to vaccinations, you should only work with legitimate health care professionals. As a rule of thumb, it is best to avoid vaccine offers from anyone you don’t know. If the person contacting you doesn’t represent a doctor, health care clinic, pharmacy, or county health program that you have heard of, you should cease contact (e.g., immediately end the call, do not reply or click on links in the email, or do not correspond via text message).

The following best practices will help you beat and avoid the COVID vaccine scam:

  • Never share personal information over the phone with someone you don’t know.
  • Ignore offers for vaccinations, COVID-19 treatments, or cures. Scammers are selling products to treat or prevent COVID-19 without proof that they work.
  • Be aware that legitimate tracers need health information, not money or personal financial information.
  • Hang up immediately if you receive a robocall.
  • Don’t click on links in emails or text messages from sources you don’t know.
  • Be wary of ads for test kits. Many of these kits have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Be aware of COVID-19 test kits that offer rapid results. While there are at-home test kits available, most legitimate test kits require you to send a test sample to a lab for analysis. Those promising rapid results are likely scams.

Red Flags of COVID Scams to Watch Out For

  • Someone offering to sell you an appointment to be vaccinated. You do not have to pay to get an appointment for a vaccine.
  • Someone calling about the vaccine and immediately asking for your personal or financial information (e.g., your SSN, bank account, or credit card number). You do not need to provide any such information to receive a vaccine.
  • Someone offering to buy a vaccine and have it mailed to you. Remember that legitimate vaccines are not available for purchase. Even if someone ships you what they claim is the COVID-19 vaccine, it will not be the actual vaccine.
  • Emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). In general, you should be skeptical of emails from these types of senders. Instead, directly visit legitimate websites for vaccine information, such as:
  • Be suspicious of any ads from a company that you don’t recognize selling a vaccine. The vaccine may be fake because they have not been proven to work. The only approved vaccines are listed on the FDA website. If you do not recognize the company, you should research it to confirm if it is legitimate.

The FDA has issued warning letters to companies selling products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. Check the list if you're unsure about a particular company offering the vaccine.

Examples of the COVID Vaccine Scam

There are many different versions of this scam in circulation. Some scammers post the vaccine for sale on social media, offering to send you vials of the vaccine in the mail.

Example of a COVID vaccine scam.
The COVID vaccine cannot be bought in vials anywhere. Any offer to sell you the vaccine is a scam. (Source: Trend Micro)

Scammers will even impersonate a government agency to make the scam seem more believable. Always check the sender's email address and look for any red flags of scams, including grammar and spelling errors.

Example COVID vaccine scam.
Bad spelling and grammar are clear indications of a scam. (Source: NHS Ayrshire & Arran)

COVID scams aren't even just limited to the vaccine. A fake COVID treatment was even endorsed by televangelist Jim Bakker. 

Example COVID vaccine scam.
Even if a COVID vaccine or treatment is being endorsed by a celebrity, it doesn't mean it's real. (Source: IdentityForce)

Fallen for the COVID-19 Vaccine Scam?

If you have given out credit card or banking information to a scammer, contact the issuing bank immediately to report fraud.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get your money back, but if you catch the scam early enough, your bank may be able to reverse the charge or issue you a refund.

If you’ve provided your SSN to the scammer, place a fraud alert on your credit and monitor your credit report regularly to ensure the scammer isn’t taking out lines of credit in your name.

Report the Scam to the Authorities

If you have fallen for the COVID-19 vaccine scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, your state or territory attorney general, and even your local police. Although reporting the fraud to the authorities won't help you get your money back, it will help put a stop to the scammers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free. Any person or organization who is charging you to get the vaccine is scamming you. There are no out-of-pocket costs for the vaccine, even if you don't have health insurance.

Can you buy vials of the vaccine?

No. Vials of the vaccine are not available to the general public. 

How do I make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

You can find vaccine appointments online via the government's Vaccine Finder. Your state may also have its own website to book a vaccine appointment.

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