Now that COVID-19 vaccination is in full swing along with economic relief packages from the federal government, scammers are using phishing emails and texts, bogus social media posts, robocalls,  impostor schemes and more to prey on the public. Federal and state agencies are reporting a flood of vaccine scams, with phony websites and email campaigns promising easy and early access to coronavirus shots. They also anticipate a rise in financial stimulus scams targeting relief payments, unemployment benefits and small business loans.

From the earliest beginnings of the COVID pandemic, fraudsters have been luring consumers with fake remedies; now they’re using the vaccine rollout as bait to lure unsuspecting consumers.

The Hawai‘i Department of Health and Human Services says consumers should be on the lookout for the following signs of vaccine scams:

• Requests that you to pay out-of-pocket to receive a shot or get on a vaccine waiting list
• Ads for vaccines via websites, social media posts, emails or phone calls
• Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of COVID-19 vaccines

The FBI says con artists are still advertising fake COVID-19 antibody tests to mine personal  information to be used in identity theft or health insurance scams. This includes fake unemployment filings and even stealing one’s stimulus check.

Other scammers claim to be selling or offering supplies such as masks, test kits and sanitizers, often in robocalls, texts or social media ads.

Scammers are also impersonating banks and money lenders, offering bogus help with bills, credit card debt or student loan forgiveness.

Beware of calls, texts or emails, and social media posts originating from what appear to be  government agencies that instruct you to click a link, pay a fee or confirm personal data (your Social Security number) to secure your stimulus check.

The FTC and the Justice Department also issued an alert about phishing texts and phone calls that are supposedly from contact tracers, warning you that you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you click the text message link, malware downloads to your device. These messages will appear to be from actual businesses or government agencies, but clicking on links or downloading attached files could enable the theft of personal information and your identity. Messages from actual contact tracers will not include a link, or ask you for money or personal data.

Also use care when conducting an internet search for coronavirus information. Are you going to the actual CDC or WHO website, or to a scam portal created by a cybercriminal?

Christopher Duque |