HOUSTON - No sooner than the COVID-19 vaccine has been rolled out and there are scams we need to warn you about.
How do you avoid these COVID-19 vaccine schemes? For starters, only rely on reputable sites and officials for information because con artists are already at work swindling people who are simply trying to keep from catching COVID-19.
"It’s tragic and it’s just absolutely unacceptable that somebody would do this. There’s nothing more reprehensible than to take advantage of people when they’re scared," says City of Houston Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Persse.
Some scammers are pretending to have the COVID-19 vaccine and promising to immunize you, for a small fee of course.
"Be very careful with any unsolicited emails, any advertisings that you see on social media platforms, any phone calls," says Christina Garza with the Houston FBI.
"One big red flag will be if they ask you for any money for the vaccine. There is no charge for the vaccine. The providers, whether it be a doctors office or hospital they can charge the federal government or they can charge your insurance company but they can not charge the person getting the vaccine," adds Dr. Persse who suggests going to the Department of State Health Services website and clicking COVID-19 Vaccine Information.
"If you scroll about halfway down there’s a link that says Texas COVID-19 Vaccines Provider Map" or click here and go to the Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Locations map. On the map, you can find every Texas clinic, hospital, pharmacy and health department that's authorized to give the vaccine. In the upper left corner, you can put in an address.
After inputting my location, the map shows me there are 15 medical facilities approved to give the COVID-19 vaccine within 10 miles of FOX 26.
"If they’re not on the list then don’t go there," Dr. Persse warns because if non-approved doctors somehow get a hold of the vaccine they may not even store it properly. "An improperly stored vaccine will lose its potency. It doesn’t turn into poison. So people don’t need to worry about that but it won’t be effective."
The scammers aren’t only after money. Some are also stealing identities.
"Never provide your personal information to anyone you don’t know or have not met. Personal information includes your name, your birth date, in this case, medical information, such as health insurance information," explains Garza.
Dr. Persse says there’s also confusion because, according to the state, only people in the Phase 1A category, frontline healthcare workers and long term care facility residents, can receive the vaccine right now.
So how have some in the 1B category, those over 65 and anyone older than 16 with one of nine medical problems, already been vaccinated? Well, if a hospital has immunized everyone on its 1A list and has vaccine leftover.
"The state has said don’t just leave those in the refrigerator, go on to your 1B people," Dr. Persse explains.