MARYLAND, USA — Maryland authorities are asking residents to be on the lookout for vaccine fraud schemes, with a specific focus on scams that ask for personal information or money in exchange for the vaccine.
Gov. Larry Hogan said that federal investigators have already busted three Maryland men accused of running an elaborate scam.
A screengrab included in federal charging documents shows a fake website that looks very similar to the real website of Moderna, one of the companies now supplying vaccines to the world. Even the web address looked the same.
According to federal investigators, the tip off was a click-through button stating that "you may be able to buy a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of time". Hogan said the vaccine is not for sale by anyone to the general public.
"No one can sell you a vaccine," Hogan said definitively. "No one can charge you for a vaccine. It is free, no insurance information is required. And no social security information is required."
Federal authorities arrested three Baltimore-area men in the alleged scheme after an agent posing as a customer was instructed to wire $6,000 into one of the accused men’s accounts.
The suspects charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud are 22-year-old Olakitan Oluwalade, his cousin 25-year-old Odunayo Baba Oluwalade and 22-year-old Kelly Lamont Williams.
According to online profiles, one of the suspects is a recent college graduate claiming to be a digital marketer. Another suspect claimed to be in the Army Reserve, according to a social media profile.
"There have been increased reports of fraud, connected to COVID-19 vaccines, including calls from people claiming to represent the health department, and asking for payments and social security numbers," Hogan warned.
Maryland authorities say residents should not give personal information to anyone soliciting for vaccines or vaccine appointments and never send money to anyone for vaccine because it is free of charge.
Hogan is asking people who run across suspected scams to report them to authorities right away.