MADISON, Wis. - The first of many freezer-packed COVID-19 vaccine vials made their way to distribution sites across the United States on Sunday, as the nation's pandemic deaths approached the horrifying new milestone of 300,000. The rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, ushers in the biggest vaccination effort in U.S. history, and cybersecurity experts are warning that scammers are already looking to take advantage.
These scams have become a lot more sophisticated, involving emails, text messages and even fake websites. Experts say the best thing you can do is be skeptical, and understand this isn't something you can just buy online.
"At any time, the bad actors will kind of pounce upon any popular or trending topic in order to layer that into their tools to lure people to places," said John Bloomer, director of engineering for Check Point Software, a cybersecurity firm.
Bloomer said his team has identified websites, emails and other attempts at luring people into vaccine scams. For example, spending money to save your spot in line for a vaccine or to have it shipped to you.
"That's not a thing," said Bloomer. "You're not gonna get something that has to be shipped to you at 90 degrees below zero from some guy over the internet."
What's worse, Bloomer said these phishing attempts often seem like they're real, and victims don't find out until after the damage has been done.
"Nine times out of 10, these things are gonna look like they're coming from a legitimate business so you can report that impersonation to that legitimate business to have them investigate and take appropriate action," said Bloomer.
Bloomer's advice is to be skeptical of any vaccine offer you may see online, and check with your doctor or pharmacy for legitimate information on the vaccine, and like anything online...
"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," said Bloomer.
If you receive one of these scamming attempts, Bloomer says you have some options. If the scammer impersonates a company, you should alert that company. You can also contact law enforcement.