Authorities warn of scam callers seeking sensitive information to ‘reserve a vaccine for COVID-19’

As fears over the COVID-19 pandemic grow following mass closures across the United States, concerns of scammers attempting to take advantage of the chaotic situation are circulating as confusion and panic spread.

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The Lucas County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio issued a warning to its followers to be on the lookout for con artists claiming to be with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempting to lure people into reserving a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. 

Scammers have been calling people requesting credit card and social security numbers in exchange for reserving a vaccine that currently does not exist, according to the sheriff’s office. 

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“Anyone receiving such a call should not under any circumstances give the caller any personal information or money," the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office wrote on their Facebook page. 

U.S. researchers gave the first shots in a clinical trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday. But even if the research goes well, a vaccine would not be available for widespread use for 12 to 18 months, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

On March 15, the National Security Council tweeted regarding a concern over fake text message rumors circulating throughout the public about a national quarantine. 

On March 6, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an alert reminding individuals to be wary of possible scams related to the pandemic that has completely upended the social and economic fabric of the world. 

“Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes,” the organization said. “Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19.”

CISA warns against giving away sensitive information over email and advises people to be wary of clicking on any link attachments sent via email. 

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CISA said that federal, state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 information sites are the best resources for up-to-date information on the pandemic. 

The Secret Service said scammers send emails under the guise of a medical official with important information about coronavirus. When the victim lets their guard down and opens an attached file, their computer becomes infected with malware.

The scammer could access the victim’s passwords and possibly even their financial information.

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In non-delivery schemes, victims are told about an in-demand medical supply that can prevent coronavirus. Once they pay for it, the victim never hears from the seller again or receives a product, the agency said.

“Avoid opening attachments and clicking on links within emails from senders you do not recognize,” the Secret Service said. These attachments can contain malicious content, such as ransomware, that can infect your device and steal your information.”