With vaccine in sight, government officials gear up for surge of covid scams


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Now that a covid vaccine seems to be just weeks away, authorities are bracing for a wave of new scams linked to the deadly virus, and they are warning consumers falling victim to a covid-related fraud can amount to much more than losing money.

A bogus vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 can cost you more than a few dollars, it can set back your health, wreak havoc on your finances, and expose your personal information to hackers. 

“Fraudsters have no filter. They will target you and claim anything,” warns cyber security expert Dave Newell, about criminals that will do just about anything to anybody for a quick buck.

Law enforcement has been cracking down on covid-related crimes since the pandemic started earlier this year: thousands of fake covid test kits seized at airports, and fraudsters have been arrested peddling bogus covid vaccines through emails and text messages.

Newell, founder of East Aurora-based Loptr LLC, said, “if you see something at a search engine or in Facebook, or in social media, you really have to be very critical about anything that you see to make sure that it is legitimate.”

Government agencies have seized more than $26 million worth of counterfeit covid tests, medications, and personal protection equipment (PPE); made more than 170 arrests, and have identified more than 70,000 bogus websites.

But Newell said getting caught up in a covid-related scam can also cause serious damage to your finances and your livelihood. Clicking on a bogus link can download a virus or ransomware, providing personal information can result in identity theft.

“We see folks using covid as a message to try to get people to click and open up ransomware attacks, and in that case, a victim at a company can click, open up an email, and start to spread ransomware throughout an organization.”

Authorities advise, if you are ill or exposed to someone who might be, consult your doctor or another medical professional to be tested, or for treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has produced a video to help keep consumers informed about COVID-19, along with other timely tips that you can find here.

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