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Don’t fall for fake vaccine scams, FBI warns

Scams aimed to prey on vulnerability, steal money, officials say

SAN ANTONIO – As major pharmaceutical companies inch closer to releasing an FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine, federal law enforcement officials are warning that scammers are also hard at work looking to take advantage of vulnerable people.

In the coming weeks, FBI special agents want everyone to look out for schemes offering fake vaccines.

“The FBI has been closely following scams connected with the COVID pandemic,” said FBI Special Agent Michelle Lee. “Definitely, we saw instances where unscrupulous individuals, criminal organizations, were taking advantage of the fear and the vulnerability that a lot of folks in our community have.”

Worse than being scammed out of money, the consequences of injecting a fake vaccine into your body could be life-threatening, said Dr. Harry Croft, a San Antonio psychiatrist.

“Since this will be illegal, we don’t have a clue what might be in it,” Croft said.

Like Lee, Croft warns about the red flags that may appear through a website, text message, email or a phone call.

“I promise you, nobody will ever ask you in advance to pay in advance for a vaccine,” Croft said.

Once a real vaccine hits the market, Croft said it will be well known.

“You’ll see it on every national. Oh, and local newscast,” Croft said.

In the meantime, Lee and Croft say beware of the fakes.

“I would never trust anything, like any third party, that isn’t a legitimate public health official or a health care provider,” Lee said.

If you want to verify a vaccine is real, Croft and Lee say you can also call your insurance agency or physician.

You can report vaccine scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov or your local FBI field office, which can be located at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices.


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