Criminals are using the COVID-19 vaccine as a way to target the public by tricking them to hand over cash or financial details. They are sending convincing-looking text messages letting people know they are eligible for the vaccine or phoning people directly pretending to be from the NHS, or local pharmacy.
People are warned to be alert to these scams.
The NHS will:
- never ask for payment - the vaccine is free
- never ask for your bank details
- never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
- never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport
How to spot fraud
The top four vaccine scams are as follows:
- Text messages – People are asked to press a number on their keypad or to send a text message to confirm they wish to receive the vaccine, doing so is likely to result in a charge being applied to their phone bill and fraudsters collecting personal information to use again.
- Phone calls – Victims receive a phone call from a fake caller offering the vaccine for a fee or asking for bank details.
- Websites - Fake URL links to convincing-looking NHS vaccine booking forms, these look like official NHS forms and may contain some personal information already, at the end of the form it asks for the victim’s bank details.
- In person - Criminals are calling unannounced at the homes of victims by pretending to be from the NHS to administer the vaccine there and then, in exchange for a cash payment.
How to stop fraud
Like for other scams, the following advice applies:
- Challenge - Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests that don’t feel right. Check GOV.UK to ensure it’s genuine.
- Do not respond to text messages that try to get you to send money, or important personal information such as bank details or passwords.
- Use official government websites and refer to ‘Contact Us’ sections of websites to access information and service.
- Challenge unannounced callers to your home. NHS visit, if necessary will be agreed with you directly or via carers, they will never turn up unannounced.
The advice above is also available as a poster and leaflet.
How to report COVID-19 vaccine scams
If you have received a text message, email or phone call where someone has tried to charge you for the vaccine please report this to Action Fraud, even if you haven't given them any money.
For those who have received an email that they think could be fraudulent, they should report it the Suspicious Email Reporting Service(SERS), launched by the National Cyber Security Centre in partnership with City of London Police. SERS was established in April 2020 and has since received over four million emails from the public, leading to the removal of over 26,000 scams and over 49,000 links to malicious content.
If you believe you are the victim of a fraud relating to the COVID-19 vaccine, please do not report this to the NHSCFA – as we are only able to look into fraud where the NHS in England and Wales is the victim. Please report it to Action Fraud and forward any suspicious emails to the firstname.lastname@example.org. Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge.