NY AG: Watch out for COVID-19 vaccine scams

Sarah Taddeo
New York State Team

Did you get a call saying you’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine? It’s likely a scam, New York Attorney General Letitia James warned last week.

The U.S. has only recently begun administering COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare professionals and nursing home residents and employees, and the vaccines won’t be available to the general public for at least a few months. 

Furthermore, New York has not yet announced a definitive timeline for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to the public, other than to say people at highest risk for COVID-19 symptoms, such as those over 65 and those with underlying conditions like heart disease, would be some of the first in line. 

“Throughout this pandemic, scammers have found ways to victimize the public, with the vaccine distribution process being their latest method for fraud,” said James. “We must remain vigilant about potential scams and ensure New Yorkers know the latest information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.” 

If you receive a call, text, email or letter with the following content, you should be wary: 

-- Anyone offering you individual access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Do not give out your Social Security number, personal credit card, or bank account information. No one from a vaccine distributor, health care company, or private insurance company will ask for this information.  

-- Anyone offering a vaccine and claiming to represent organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) either in individual contact or on a website. If you get an email about a COVID-19 vaccine or clinical trial, check the sender’s email domain to make sure it matches the website of the organization sending the e-mail and be wary of clicking on any hyperlinks or providing any login or other personal information.

-- Anyone offering to ship a COVID-19 vaccine to your home, provide special access to vaccines or clinical trials, or sell special cold storage devices for vaccines

Here’s what else you should know about vaccine distribution: 

-- If you have health insurance, you should not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine while the pandemic remains a public health emergency. If you don’t have health insurance, the provider may only charge an administration fee. However, in many instances, you likely will not be required to pay the administration fee.

-- You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine or to get into a vaccine clinical trial.

-- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use so far. Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is approved for use in individuals 16 years of age and older, while the Moderna vaccine is authorized for use in individuals 18 and older. If you have doubt about whether a vaccine or clinical trial is real, check with a licensed healthcare provider. 

For all up-to-date information pertaining to COVID-19 vaccine approval and distribution in New York, go to www.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov. 

Call the New York State COVID-19 Hotline at (888) 364-3065 for all COVID-19 related questions.

The Attorney General's Office is charged with investigating scams exploiting public concern around the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of an unlawful activity or scam related to COVID-19 or otherwise, report these incidents to the OAG at www.ag.ny.gov/complaint-forms.