MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Montgomery County is warning residents in its community about COVID-19 scams that are popping up not only in Maryland but across the DMV region.
Numerous new “phishing” scams have been devised by scammers to take advantage of consumers seeking information on how to preregister for vaccines, according to a county news release.
The Montgomery County Office of Consumer has been working to provide information to residents about how to identify these COVID-19 scams.
According to the consumer awareness office for the county, among the scams identified are ones regarding bogus products, testing sites and vaccine availability. The scams are being directed toward consumers via email, texting and telephone. In most cases, the attention-getting scams seek to have innocent residents provide the scammers with funds for services or products that do not actually exist. In other cases, fake or stolen vaccines may be offered on the “darknet.”
“Responding to the numerous health and financial related challenges caused by the current pandemic requires Montgomery County to establish multidisciplinary teams and experts to collaborate and take action,” County Executive Elrich sad. “We recognize that scammers seek to exploit news events and cause financial harm to consumers and businesses. Accordingly, in addition to providing information about vaccines and testing, we also need to provide alerts to prevent residents from becoming the targets and victims of COVID-19-related scams that may cause financial harm.”
Montgomery County isn't alone in its concern for COVID-19 scams.
Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring has been warning Virginians over the last few months about people trying to take advantage of the pandemic.
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.
To prevent interaction with scammers, Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection Director Eric Friedman advises residents to rely on information provided by the County’s official website. The information available includes:
- General information about COVID-19 and its impact on County residents is available at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/
- The preregistration link for vaccines provided at County Government-operated clinics can be found at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine/
- Information from the Federal Trade Commission on steps consumers can take to protect themselves from COVID-related scams can be found at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2021/01/scammers-cash-covid-19-vaccination-confusion