The Covid-19 pandemic has rocked the world since the World Health Organization (WHO) received notification on New Year’s Eve in 2019 that a previously unidentified coronavirus had been pinpointed in Wuhan, China. A month later the outbreak was categorized as a public health emergency and some six weeks later it was declared a pandemic. Scientists have since worked ceaselessly to formulate a vaccine against the virus, and have largely succeeded with the advent of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and others. The next difficulty was persuading Joe Public to accept vaccinations.
Many states including California, Hawaii, Illinois, and Ohio have been offering cash or in-kind wins to encourage Americans to be vaccinated in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19. It was a great idea until vaccine lottery scams began gatecrashing the party.
Why Do People Need An Incentive to Vaccinate?
In America, more than half the states have signed up to offer incentives for residents to get their Covid-19 jabs.
There have been various draws offering cash prizes ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. Others offer prizes such as a free beer (New Jersey), airline tickets (Washington and Hawaii), speed racing (Alabama), paid leave (Idaho), cookies (Indiana), hunting and fishing licenses (Maine), with proof of at least one shot having been administered.
Many of these programs have succeeded, especially as the virus continues to mutate. Currently, there are four variants: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. People are also continually being urged to wear masks, not congregate in large groups, and sanitize regularly.
Despite the reams of scientific evidence that vaccines are beneficial, many people remain ‘anti-vaxxers’, obstinately opposed to being injected. Education and reason have not changed their perceptions, so another avenue had to be explored. Hence, material incentives were introduced to persuade people that getting vaccinated had alternative benefits
Vaccine Lottery Scams
However, it wasn’t long before scammers recognized ideal opportunities to separate people from their money and even their identities. Part of the problem is that there is no official entry form into these lotteries or draws. For example, in Illinois, the Department of Public Health monitors vaccination records and all eligible people are automatically entered. Real winners are generally notified by phone or email and it’s simple for scammers to obtain these particulars, especially as they are often widely shared on social media. Scammers will ask the ‘winner’ to pay a small fee in order for their funds to be released, which of course are never forthcoming.
Some scammers have perfected ID spoofing, where a caller purports to use a local area phone number or is calling from a registered company or government entity whose details you may recognize. They will attempt to elicit as much personal information from you as possible, including addresses, bank account details, and social security numbers. These callers may offer what sound like amazing discounted deals on goods or services. Some are unscrupulous enough to prey on their victims’ emotions by offering to assist in registering people for an actual federal program set up to assist with funeral expenses for those who have succumbed to Covid-19.
How To Recognize A Potential Scammer?
Scammers succeed because their calls sound rational and authoritative and their targets, especially the elderly or young people, tend to trust them. Be wary of all calls, especially if they are more frequent than usual, and offer assistance with any pandemic-related issues. If you resist their offerings, they may resort to threats of legal or financial repercussions. Often, they will ask you to press a key on your phone to either be removed from their call list or to claim your ‘prize’. If you do so, this will confirm that you may be in the market for a good deal, and a scammer will likely continue to prey on you.
The Latest Information on Vaccine Lottery Scams
The upshot is stay alert to stay safe. Find the contact details of any organization the caller claims to represent and call back personally to verify their identity. Never divulge personal information and don’t pay any upfront fee to claim a prize.
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