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Unfortunately, older adults and others who are awaiting vaccine appointments can fall prey to scammers. Though there have not been reports of this sort of scam happening in Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum released information to help people avoid being the target of fraud regarding COVID-19 vaccines.
Here are six tips on how to spot a vaccine scam:
- Do not pay to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone who wants money to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line is a scammer.
- Worried about cost? If you are uninsured, on Medicare, an employer plan, private insurance, or the Oregon Health Plan, you do not have to pay to get the vaccine. That is a scam.
- Ignore sales ads for the vaccine. The vaccine is only available through federal or state partners. You cannot buy it anywhere.
- Nobody legitimate will call, text or email about the vaccine and ask for your Social Security number, bank account information or credit card number.
- You are not required to provide a Social Security number when registering for a vaccine appointment.
Please share these tips with your friends and family, and if you know a senior who is not tech-savvy, offer to help them get an appointment for their vaccine — and then, help them find a way to get to the appointment.
If you have information, or think you may have fallen victim, to a fraud or scam contact the Oregon Department of Justice online at www.oregonconsumer.gov, or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint Hotline at 877-877-9392.
Contact Tracing Scam Calls:
To prevent and slow down the spread of Covcid-19, local and tribal public health authorities around the state have been using the process of contact tracing to let individuals know they may have been exposed to Covid-19. Due to the rise in scam calls, contact tracing calls may sometimes hard to identify, Oregon Health Authority has provided helpful tips on identifying a legitimate contact tracing call.
A contact tracer WILL ask you:
- If you need an interpreter in a language other than English
- For your name, date of birth and where you live
- If you have any symptoms of Covid-19
- If you need a place to stay
- If you need food or have other needs to help you stay at home
- If they can contact you daily to monitor your symptoms and needs
- For your race, ethnicity, language and disability information.
A contact tracer will never ask for your:
- Social Security number
- Bank Account or credit card number
- Immigration status
- A caller will never say you need to pay for this service or
- Make a threat to put you or your family in jail if you don't speak to the contact tracer
Scammers continue to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to steal money through a variety of means. The FBI is warning the health care industry in particular of an increased potential for fraudulent activity dealing with the purchase of COVID-19-related medical equipment. Based on the current stress on the supply chain, scammers may promise equipment they do not have access to in order to capitalize on the medical community’s urgent needs. The FBI asks the medical community to exercise due diligence and appropriate caution when dealing with any vendors with whom they have never worked and/or of which they’ve never heard, and when relying on unidentified third-party brokers in the supply chain.
The FBI advises to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity, to include:
- Unusual payment terms (e.g., supplier asking for up-front payments or proof of payment)
- Last-minute price changes
- Last-minute excuses for delay in shipment (e.g., claims that the equipment was seized at port or stuck in customs)
- Unexplained source of bulk supply
If you think you have information of suspicious activity by a vendor, or believe you were a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, please report it:
- Submit a tip to the FBI online at tips.fbi.gov
- If it’s a cyber scam, submit your complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at email@example.com
Additionally, the FBI urges everyone to be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products like sanitizing products and personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full-face shields, protective gowns, and gloves.
More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at cdc.gov/niosh. You can also find information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website and the Environmental Protection Agency website. Counterfeit products can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
Where can I report price gouging?
Contact the Oregon Department of Justice’s Consumer Hotline if you see merchants charging exorbitant prices for goods and supplies: 1-877-877-9392 or www.oregonconsumer.gov.
Stimulus Check Scams:
- The Internal Revenue Service won't send an over-payment and then make you send money back in any way, shape or form: If you receive what appears to be an official check for more than what you're expecting, you can expect a phone call from a scammer telling you to keep the amount you were supposed to receive (up to $1,200) and return the rest to them in cash, gift cards or money transfers.
- The IRS won't call, text or e-mail you: According to the FTC, con artists are even sending postcards out containing a password you can use online to "access" or "verify" your payment or bank account information. Know this: The IRS will not reach out to you and ask for your personal information or bank account information.
As Oregon OSHA evaluates and inspects complaints about potential workplace hazards related to the coronavirus outbreak, the division wants employers and workers to keep an important message in mind: Do not be fooled by scammers.
The division has received multiple reports of fraudulent activity. The activity includes people showing up at job sites and pretending to be division compliance officers. The fraudsters attempt to issue thousands of dollars in fines and demand immediate cash payments.
Here are some things to keep in mind about how Oregon OSHA operates:
At the beginning of an inspection – when compliance officers introduce themselves to owner representatives, operators, or agents in charge at workplaces – they present their credentials.
If the division conducts an inspection and identifies violations, its normal citation processing takes at least two weeks following the closing of an inspection. The actual penalties for any particular violation involves a number of factors. There is never a demand for immediate cash payment of a proposed fine.
If you are unsure if someone showing up at your job site is an Oregon OSHA employee, call 503-378-3272 or 800-922-2689 (toll-free) (inside Oregon only).
For more information, contact Oregon OSHA: https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/contactus.aspx