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JERSECY CITY, NJ-Authorities on warned of a wave of scams that use bogus claims of offering coronavirus vaccines and COVID-19 stimulus payments to swindle unsuspecting victims.
In some of the scams targeting senior citizens, con artists promise early access to the coronavirus vaccine in return for money, according to Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni. The fraudsters pose as doctors, insurance companies or other medical facilities with calls that falsely claim a vaccine can be shipped and ask for various personal information to falsely check if a victim can “qualify” for the shot.
“We live in a world where scammers will try anything to get your personal information, medical information, and even your life’s savings using devious tactics,” Gramiccioni said in a statement. “Please be vigilant – if it seems questionable, then trust your instincts that it is.”
Scammers aim to gather information, including social security numbers, Medicare identification, bank and credit card accounts and other sensitive data.
“The most important piece of advice during this unusual time is to be overly skeptical of any unsolicited offers of any kind, to stay vigilant no matter how convincing the voice on the other side of the phone may be,” Gramiccioni added.
The fraud can also come via social media sites, where criminals use ads to peddle supposed coronavirus vaccines, according to the prosecutor, who urged people to closely guard their personal information.
“Just because it is on the internet does not make it safe or true,” he said.
Federal authorities too have sounded the alarm over fraud that prey upon financial and health worries brought on by the pandemic. Officials with Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations said they were investigating hundreds of the scams, including those that use the government’s latest round of stimulus funds as a trap.
Fraudulent text messages that ask taxpayers to send bank account information under the guise of receiving a $600 stimulus payment and phishing emails that use COVID-19, stimulus and related keywords to trick people into providing the information were among some of the cons, according to officials.
“Criminals are taking advantage of the second round of Economic Impact Payments – as well as the approaching filing season – to trick honest taxpayers out of their hard-earned money,” a statement from IRS Criminal Investigations Newark field office said.
Other scams include those claiming to provide test kits and bogus medical advice along with fake offers to invest in companies purportedly developing vaccines, according to officials.
Gramiccioni, the county prosecutor, released a series of tips online to avoid falling victim to the scams. Federal officials also asked people to report COVID-19 scams to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or via its website. The IRS maintains a website with official information about stimulus payments.