Beware of fake Covid vaccinations as fraudsters target the vulnerable

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Covid vaccination scams

Fraudsters are targeting vulnerable people offering them fake Covid vaccinations at exorbitant prices. In some cases, victims are encouraged to reveal their bank details to criminals who can then steal their savings.

Police in London are trying to trace a man who injected a woman aged 92 with a fake vaccine at a cost of £160. Officers described it as a “disgusting and totally unacceptable assault” on an elderly, vulnerable patient.

There has also been a spate of fake text messages to people informing them that the health service is now ready to give them vaccinations.

The Metropolitan police say the 92-year-old victim allowed the scammer into her home on 30 December. The man gave her an injection into her arm with a “dart-like implement”. He then charged her the £160, which he claimed would be refunded to the NHS.

Police say they don’t know what substance was used in the injection, but the woman had been checked by doctors and had not suffered any ill effects.

Det Insp Kevin Ives appealed for information and said: “It is crucial we catch him as soon as possible as not only is he defrauding individuals of money, he may endanger people’s lives.”

Police want to speak to a man seen on CCTV footage from the area. He’s dressed in a navy-blue tracksuit with white stripes down the side.

He is white, in his early 30s, who is about 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, of medium build, with light brown hair that is combed back. He speaks with a London accent.

The government agency Action Fraud is now warning people to remain vigilant as criminals begin to take advantage of the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to commit fraud.

As of 7 January 2021, Action Fraud, the UK reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, had received 57 reports in relation to fake Covid vaccinations.

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “The vaccine is a crucial tool in fighting the coronavirus and keeping people safe. Thankfully, the number of reports into Action Fraud are relatively low but we have seen an increase in the last two months, particularly around scam text messages.

“Remember, the vaccine is only available on the NHS and is free of charge. The NHS will never ask you for details about your bank account or to pay for the vaccine. If you receive an email, text message or phone call purporting to be from the NHS and you are asked to provide financial details, this is a scam.”

Action Fraud has received reports from members of the public who have been sent text messages claiming to be from the NHS, offering them the opportunity to sign up for the vaccine. The texts ask the recipient to click on a link which takes them to an online form where they are prompted to input personal and financial details. In some cases the online form has looked very similar to the real NHS website.

How to protect yourself:

Coronavirus vaccines will only be available through official health service channels.

  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.  

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk.

More information from Action Fraud.

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