COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — As the COVID-19 vaccine brings hope of normalcy for many, officials say scammers are wasting no time targeting those trying to sign up for their dose of the vaccine.
“Scam artists are going to exploit consumers wanting this vaccine,” said Bryan Oglesby, director of public relations with the Better Business Bureau serving West Florida.
“They’re really going to play on our emotions and the act of wanting it now.”
Long lines and thousands of appointments filling up within minutes have proved just how desperately people have been hoping to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is a time to remain calm, understand that scams do happen, they are out there,” said Oglesby.
Oglesby says there are red flags to look out for to avoid getting scammed.
“No legitimate organization is going to pressure us to give any sensitive information about us — to give payment information, right now you shouldn’t have to pay for this vaccine," said Oglesby.
Oglesby says several scams have already been reported in Florida.
“We’ve seen some reports where scammers are using that Eventbrite platform to create fake events,” said Oglesby.
While not a scam reported in Southwest Florida, Eventbrite is used by the Florida Department of Health in Collier County to book vaccine appointments.
DOH-Collier issued the following warning:
"DOH-Collier will not ask for your social security number, credit card information, or bank information. Furthermore, DOH-Collier is not charging for the vaccine. If a site you are using is asking for payment information, please do not provide this information and report the issue."
Oglesby says people also need to be careful with robocalls pretending to be a government agency and be wary of suspicious emails or texts.
"These could be potential scams trying to collect personal information from you, so just be careful clicking on that link, clicking on a link in a text message sent to you," said Oglesby.
Lee county also says people booking appointments through their call service should not give bank information, reminding residents the COVID-19 vaccine is free.