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Virginia attorney general warns about scams as country gets closer to FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines

With the potential for fake vaccines and treatments claiming to fight coronavirus to be out there, Attorney General Mark Herring wants people to do their homework.

RICHMOND, Va. — The closer the United States gets to having an FDA-approved vaccine available for COVID-19, the more vaccine-related scams could be on the rise.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring warned people to be cautious of claims that a vaccine, medication or other treatment is a cure for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, scammers will take advantage of Virginians’ excitement over the prospect of an effective vaccine just to make a buck. I know Virginians are tired and ready to get their lives back to normal, but I want to urge everyone to be wary of any too-good-to-be-true COVID vaccine offers,” said Herring.

Virginia has long been fighting scams through the pandemic, according to Herring, but the vaccine's arrival to the commonwealth poses a different kind of threat. 

"When the pandemic first hit, we saw a range of activity that we needed to address. We saw price gouging, people charging exorbitant amounts for hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies. It was all over the entire state, not unique to one particular region or type of retailer," Herring said.

In an interview Monday with 13News Now, Herring said, "Unfortunately, whenever there is a public health crisis or natural disaster, most people come together to help each other through it. But experience tells us there are always some that will use it as a way to try to scam and rip off other people."

As of Monday, Herring said no scams had been reported yet to the state's consumer protection team, but that they're starting education early to be proactive about the effort. 

In a press release sent by the Attorney General's office, Herring said not just anyone would be able to distribute the vaccines.

“Once distribution begins there will be strict protocols for receiving it," he said. "I want to urge all Virginians to remain vigilant and make sure you do your research before giving your money to anyone purporting to be selling a COVID vaccine or treatment."

Here are some recommendations to help avoid being scammed:

  • Always speak with a medical professional or a doctor first, in order to get the COVID-19 vaccine or treatment.
  • Do not buy any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment over the internet or through an online pharmacy.
  • Make sure that your doctor or physician is approved to administer any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment.
  • Ignore any unsolicited or “too good to be true” offers for vaccines, miracle cures or treatments.
  • Be wary of any online ads you may see for COVID-19 vaccines or treatments on social media.
  • Do not respond to any unsolicited emails, text messages or calls that are offering any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment.
  • Always talk with your doctor or another healthcare professional before you try any product claiming to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19.

Click here for more details about COVID-19. Also, you can visit the FDA's Resources page to learn more about treatments that are in progress.

People who have questions or concerns or think they may have fallen victim to a vaccine-related scam should contact the Virginia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section at 800-552-9963 or consumer@oag.state.va.us.

You also can fill out an online complaint form or an online contact form.