The Investigators: Mid-Southerners targeted by vaccine scams

The Investigators: Scammers prey on COVID-19 vaccine confusion

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With so much confusion about who’s eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, shot locations and hours, scammers are taking advantage of the disorganization.

The Mid-South Better Business Bureau is receiving vaccine-related scam reports from consumers of all ages in our area.

One report came from a Mid-South woman who said she waited in line at Lindenwood Church with an appointment but was “turned away when I got there due to confusion with the vaccine rollout and eligibility.”

The woman began venting to a friend about the experience on Facebook and the friend had some good news.

Bottom Line: Protecting yourself from COVID-19 scams

“The friend said ‘I talked to this other person on Facebook and I had to pay a fee but I got to move to the head of the line,’” said Nancy Crawford Butcher, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Mid-South BBB.

The 65-year-old woman told the BBB she received a message from another person on Facebook who told her “to trust him” and to just “pay the fee to get the vaccine.”

“It all just sounded a little too shady so she picked up the phone and called her friend and her friend said ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t gotten my vaccine and I’m not online right now talking to you,’” said Butcher.

“What makes people susceptible to a vaccine scam right now?” asked The Investigators.

“There’s so much confusion about the vaccines right now. Who’s eligible, where do you go, how to get on the list to get a vaccine?” said Butcher. “When there’s confusion and misunderstanding that leads people to falling for these kinds of scams.”

BBB issues warning about COVID-19 vaccine trial scams

The Mid-South BBB received seven vaccine-related scam reports in January and expects more reports to come.

“Until they get the process down and there is more widespread distribution we do expect more scams like this coming down the pike,” said Butcher.

To avoid falling victim to a vaccine scam the BBB recommends you:

  • Know your region’s vaccination plan
  • Research carefully: scammers are creative so be skeptical of anything that promises the vaccine if you pay or hand over your personal or financial information
  • Always guard your Social Security number, banking information and Medicare ID number

Another scam victim told the BBB that a woman “received a call from what appeared on my phone as ‘Advanced Medical Group’”, the report said.

“They said she qualified for the vaccine but she would have to take a test first and the test was free through Medicare,” said Butcher.

The scammer said he would come to her house to administer the COVID-19 test.

“She gave him her Medicare number to prove she qualified and he never showed up,” said Butcher. “He could now use it to commit Medicare fraud or identity theft and hopefully that won’t happen.”

Both of those reports are in the BBB’s online Scam Tracker tool where you can search by scam type or by area to know what scams are going around your area.

“As long as the pandemic is around, you’re gonna see scams using the pandemic in their pitch,” said Butcher.

The BBB also urges caution when opening links from texts, emails or messages that claim to offer the vaccine.

The latest information on getting vaccinated in Mississippi can be found HERE.

The latest information on getting vaccinated in Arkansas can be found HERE.

The latest information on getting vaccinated in Tennessee can be found HERE.

The latest information on getting vaccinated in Shelby County can be found HERE.

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