Before you respond to that text or email claiming to survey those who have been vaccinated, consider this: Just as viruses have variants, so do scams. The pandemic has created a rich environment for thieves who mask themselves in internet anonymity. They’ve come up with a variation on the old survey scam and indications are that some are falling for it. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is receiving reports of such vaccine-related scams. Here’s what is going on and how you can “immunize” yourself against the threat.
How scammers infect your devices
You may be sent a text message or an email that claims to be a survey from Pfizer or one of the other companies that manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. After all, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable that they would be researching vaccine results. The problem is: the survey is a fake. It seems like it only takes a minute, and they may even promise a “free” product for your efforts. Don’t believe it.
The object is to get you to click on a link which may download malware onto your device. In some cases, it’s to get you to reveal private information - the old “phishing” scam.
How to protect yourself
Knowledge about what crooks are up to can be your “immunization” against their trickery. Keep these points in mind:
• Scammers try to make it personal. An email may come that seems like it’s directed to you individually. Perhaps they make it sound as if they have information about you already. It’s a ruse. The email is actually a “blast email,” sent out to scores of people in hopes of ensnaring at least a few.
• If you didn’t sign up specifically for emails from a company, then the ones you are receiving are fake, pure and simple.
• A push for you to act quickly should always be ignored. Scammers don’t want you to be deliberate. They are counting on your impulsive response. Make it a habit to never respond quickly to any attempt to get you to do so.
• Read that message carefully. Is the wording awkward? Are there typos? Bad grammar? It’s a scam, perhaps from another country.
• Know that logos and official looking graphics can easily be copied to give “authenticity” to a scammer’s message. They are proof of nothing.
• Check out the true digital address of a message by hovering your cursor over the URL. Often the hyperlinked text will say one thing, but the link you reveal by hovering will point elsewhere. A link should actually be from a business’s real website, not some variation of it.
• The CDC and the vaccine companies Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are directing vaccine recipients to enroll in the CDC V-Safe Program if they choose to participate in post-vaccine monitoring. That address is https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html.
Be careful if you get a scammer’s unsolicited message or email regarding any aspect of COVID-19 vaccines. Don’t respond to them. For answers to other questions regarding current vaccine scams, contact the BBB by calling 800-856-2417 or at bbb.org.