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FBI warns: Coronavirus vaccine scams

Here are some of the typical MO's: calling you, coming to your home, advertising on social media or E-mails.

NEW ORLEANS — The FBI has a warning for everyone, but especially seniors, who are now eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Scammers have been trying to play on your fears since the pandemic began, but now that people are anxiously awaiting their turn in the vaccine line, they've shifted their schemes to making promises they can't keep.

It's all a way to line their pockets with your money and identity.

“Hey, as soon as it's available, I can bump you up on the list to make sure that you get the vaccine first,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Stephen Fessel, said is the type of line they use on potential victims.

He oversees white collar crime and health care crime and saai there are warnings you need to watch out for.

You're waiting for your coronavirus vaccine number to come up. When will it be my turn? Will I be able to get an appointment at the pharmacy? These are all legitimate frustrations and concerns. Now the FBI is warning there's another.

“With the start of COVID-19, I think we've always been seeing fraud, you know from the testing now going into the vaccines,” said Fessel.

He said fraudsters, white collar and cyber criminals, are using your desire to get what could be a life-saving vaccine, against you.

When are they usually in the United States or are they often overseas, he replied, “I would say that's, it's a combination of both.”

Here are some of the typical MO's: calling you, coming to your home, advertising on social media or E-mails, sending you attachments to click on to gain access to your computer.

What are the promises? Give me money or your personal identity information and I’ll bump you up the vaccine line, they claim.

“The problem is sometimes when you give your personal information out, you may not know that you're defrauded for a few months,” he explains.

Anyone of any age can be the target, but seniors can be so trusting and more vulnerable because now it's their turn for the vaccine.

When asked is there any hope that if a senior does give a credit card or money that he or she would ever see that money come back? Fessel answers, “It's very unlikely, unfortunately.”

But the FBI says don't let that deter you from reporting any and all suspicious attempts or theft, no matter how small. Agents look for patterns in MO's and yours could be the one that does lead them to the suspect.

“We're seeing just 10's of thousands, if not millions, of those people being defrauded every year,” Fessel said of seniors.

And these criminals have just moved from yearly hurricane aftermath fraud, to the first pandemic in a century, with the malicious intent of stealing, not only money, but your hope on this path to prevention.

FBI: 504-816-3000

For cybercrime: https://www.ic3.gov/

For any crime: https://www.fbi.gov/tips

 More information: https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/federal-agencies-warn-of-emerging-fraud-schemes-related-to-covid-19-vaccines.

 https://www.fbi.gov/coronavirus

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