COVID-19 vaccine cons on the rise; recognizing potential scams

Posted at 8:50 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 23:05:03-05

SUFFOLK, Va. – Desperate to get the COVID-19 vaccine, 69-year-old Sandi Thigpen of Suffolk recently crossed the state line, trying her luck in North Carolina. She said she went to three different counties only to leave with no shot and big disappointment.

“We’ve tried everywhere,” she said. “They said they couldn’t turn us away because it is a federal vaccine, but they had to give it to their local residents first.”

Soon after, Thigpen got a phone call about making an appointment for the shot. The timing of the call and the unfamiliar number made her believe she was being roped into a scam.

“She never gave me her name,” Thigpen said. “She wouldn’t give me what doctor’s practice she was coming from, and it just kind of seemed strange.”

Thigpen, however, did her research, tracing the call back to Bayview Physicians Group. It turned out that her primary care doctor is part of the group and the call was legit.

“We’re a very large group and have a very large primary care patient base in the Tidewater area,” said Dr. Jeff Forman, the Chief Medical Officer for Bayview Physicians Group. “We were able to have the network in place and the operations in place to deliver large numbers of vaccines over a short amount of time period.”

Thigpen had good reason to have her guard up.

Vaccine scams are on the rise, with fraudsters looking to take advantage of vulnerable people.

The City of Chesapeake posted a PSA to its social media page about how to avoid being duped.

The Better Business Bureau has received numerous reports of vaccine cons on its BBB Scam Tracker, where a person can report scams.

The FBI and BBB are warning people about potential scammers and what signs to look out for. They said you should never have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine or give personal information out to unknown sources.

If you’re sent communication about vaccines that seems fishy or too good to be true, they recommend checking with your doctor or health department. You should also know how you can expect to be contacted for the vaccine.

Thigpen followed guidance from the experts and was able to make an appointment through Bayview Physicians Group. Her first dose is scheduled for next week.

Thigpen is hopeful that once she is fully vaccinated, she’ll be able to hold her loved ones again.

“I have children and grandchildren in Florida that I haven’t seen in about 18 months, actually,” she said. “That would be nice to be able to see them.”

Click here for our full COVID-19 vaccination guide.