BOSTON , MASSACHUSETTS — As Massachusetts proceeds with its first phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Attorney General Maura Healey is advising residents about potential scams and misinformation intended to exploit the pandemic, while reminding residents to have confidence in the vaccination process.
While Massachusetts has begun the process of vaccinating health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, the vaccine will not become widely available to the general public for several months.
According to the AG’s Office, potential scams have already begun to emerge, falsely promising early access to the vaccine, promoting disinformation, and presenting risks related to unsolicited offers asking for payment and personal information.
“These vaccines are incredibly important to keep us healthy and help us defeat this pandemic, but unfortunately scammers are already trying to take advantage of this moment,” AG Healey said. “We want residents to have confidence in this vaccination process and remain vigilant when it comes to fraud and fake offers.”
The AG’s Office encourages residents to follow these tips:
- Email Scams: Beware of unsolicited emails that purport to have a link to register for the COVID-19 vaccine. These phishing emails may be an attempt at identity theft and may contain hyperlinks and downloads for malware that can allow fraudsters to take over computers and steal information. If you receive an email from your employer or health care provider about signing up for an appointment, call them to verify. Do not open unsolicited emails or click links in emails or text messages from people you don’t know, be wary of email attachments, and never provide personal information, including passwords, bank account details, or your Social Security number via email to an unverified source.
- Phone Scams: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has become aware that members of the general public are receiving scam phone calls appearing to originate from the CDC through caller ID, as well as scammer voice mail messages saying the caller is from the CDC. Scammers, either via telephone calls, text, or email, will attempt to obtain personal sensitive information in exchange for purported access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Refer to the official CDC website for updates on COVID-19 and for reliable information on vaccine availability.
- Disinformation Campaigns: Leading up to and following the authorization of COVID-19 vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), online campaigns with a range of disinformation have flourished, sparking fear and distrust about vaccines. In order to prevent the spread of misinformation, don’t forward these false messages. Instead, for accurate information, consult with reputable sources including your doctor, trusted community leaders, the CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and your city or town board of health.
- Requests for Payment: Be wary of any unsolicited offers that require you to provide your insurance or doctor’s information or ask for payment or a deposit in exchange for early access to vaccines. You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine or to get into a vaccine clinical trial. Information about how to access the vaccine will be widely disseminated by DPH when the vaccine becomes available to the general public. Massachusetts residents will not have to pay out of pocket for the vaccine.
To avoid fraud, the AG’s Office advises that residents follow guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s website for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution in Massachusetts, and never share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals. The AG’s Office also recommends the Federal Trade Commission’s guidance on avoiding COVID-19 vaccine scams.
AG Healey’s Office continues to protect Massachusetts residents against COVID-19 scams and fraud and issued an advisory earlier this year with tips and resources for consumers. The AG’s Office encourages anyone with questions or concerns to call the AG’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint online.