Vaccine scam alert: New phishing scheme targets valley seniors | #scams | #elderlyscams
There’s a new phishing scheme in the Coachella Valley with scammers trying to steal seniors’ personal information under the guise of offering coronavirus vaccine appointments.
“It’s just so unfortunate these callers are scamming our elderly,” said Rhea Hoffman, founder of Vaxie.info, a valley-based community resource helping hundreds of eligible people book vaccine appointments.
Hoffman is warning of a new phone scam an 85-year-old couple she’s assisting just went through. “They reached out to us to have us help them make an appointment and so we started looking for them,” she said. “They needed second dose Pfizer.”
The couple, who didn’t want to be interviewed, said they got a call from a 1-800 number claiming to be Walgreens. The person on the other end asked for personal information including their dates of birth and social security number, and offered to book them an appointment.
But their first appointment wasn’t with Walgreens, it was with Riverside County.
“For a company to contact you when you have not made an appointment would be very strange,” Hoffman said. “When we reached out to Walgreens and they said there is no appointment, that confirmed that something was definitely not appropriate and that’s when we contacted (the couple) and they contacted the police.”
Giving out personal or medical information over the phone could leave people susceptible to scamming. “We don’t know how far a ramification could go,” she said. “It really could affect your credit; it could go into your banking.”
But it isn’t just vaccine phishing scams over the phone. Officials nationwide are putting out numerous scam warnings. Criminals often call or email seniors offering fake vaccine appointments for money.
“I think our older generation might just be more susceptible to this because they don’t think someone’s going tp do that to them,” Hoffman said.
Even if you’ve gotten your vaccine, you could still be at risk. The Better Business Bureau says people posting their vaccination cards online are leaving themselves vulnerable.
“The problem is that the vaccine cards have a lot of private information on it,” said Robyn Householder with the Better Business Bureau. “It has your birthdate. It can sometimes have your home address on it, including your full name. It’s a scammer’s paradise.”
Experts say it’s safer to just share a picture of the vaccination sticker instead.
If you or someone you know needs help getting vaccinated, vaxie.info can assist. You can log onto their website or call the hotline at (760) 833-0569. It is free of charge and they’ve already helped hundreds of people here in the valley.