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BBB: Scammers attempting to entice vaccinated people with money, free products

Consumer Investigations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning of a new scheme they’re describing as “a survey scam with a COVID twist.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, BBB’s Paula Fleming tells 12 News they’ve received reports of thousands of different COVID-19 related schemes ranging from testing to treatment and more-recently, vaccines.

Fleming said the latest scheme involves a survey which targets people who have already received the Pfizer vaccine.

The survey is sent to potential victims through either an email or a text, and the message usually contains a link. In some cases, Fleming said the recipient is offered money or a free product in exchange for completing the survey.

Fleming urged anyone who receives an email or text message like this not to click the link.

“They’ll ask for a credit card for shipping, you never receive any trial offer, you never receive any products, and it’s extremely difficult to get into contact with anyone to cancel what you didn’t even realize what you signed up for,” Fleming explained.

Right now, the scheme appears to only be referencing the Pfizer vaccine, however, Fleming said that doesn’t mean the other federally-approved vaccines won’t be utilized by scammers in future attempts.

The BBB said it’s always best not to click on links in unsolicited emails, and provided a series of tell-tale signs for malicious emails:

  • The email claims to have information about you, but you never signed up for it. Scams often pretend to be personalized for you, but they are actually blast emails. Don’t fall for this! If you never signed up for emails from a company, you shouldn’t be receiving them.
  • Pushes you to act immediately: Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. Always be wary of emails urging you to act immediately or face a consequence.
  •  Watch for typos, strange phrasing and bad grammar. Scammers can easily copy a brand’s name, but awkward wording and poor grammar are typically a giveaway that the message is a scam. For example, one version of the survey scam impersonating Pfizer uses the wrong company logo.
  • Hover over URLs to reveal their true destination. Typically, the hyperlinked text will say one thing, but the link will point somewhere else. Make sure the links actually lead to the business’s official website, not a variation of the domain name.

Anyone who believes they may have already fallen victim to the scheme is urged to contact their credit card company immediately, adding that some people have been successful in getting their money back.

“You have to go through the credit card company and stop the transactions from transpiring,” Fleming said.

She also suggests filing a report online through BBB’s Scam Tracker.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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