Issue VII: Scams & The Vaccine

January 14, 2021

Part of our COVID-19 Consumer Protection Guide series.

After an incredibly tough year in a devastating pandemic, we finally got some good news: COVID-19 vaccines have already started rolling out. The FDA has approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, and we are likely to see more. Unfortunately, even as the vaccines provide some light at the end of this long dark tunnel, scammers are already circling, looking to take advantage of people at their most desperate. Fortunately, most of these scams bear telltale signs of fraud. This Guide includes some of the red flags to watch out for.

Scam-Avoiding FAQs on the COVID-19 Vaccine

Q. Will I need to pay for the coronavirus vaccine?

A. No, it’s very unlikely that you will have to pay.

The federal government has prepaid for hundreds of millions of vaccines to be provided for free. And Congress passed legislation to prevent insurers from applying cost-sharing to consumers. So, it is very unlikely you will have to pay for a vaccine; however, there are still some possible situations that could lead to fees.

Q. Can I pay to put my name on a list for the vaccine?

A. No, you cannot pay to be put on a list for the vaccine or to get it early.

If you get a call, text, email, or someone knocking on the door claiming that you can pay to get on a list for the vaccine, or to get it early, that’s a scam. States are rolling out their doses of the vaccine according to their set priorities. You cannot pay to get it early — though the rich have already tried. Like most states, California is providing the vaccine to health care providers and long-term care residents first.

Q. Will I receive a call to provide my SSN or bank account info to get the vaccine?

A. No, that is a scam.

You will not get a call from a vaccine distribution site or healthcare payer, like a private insurance company, to ask for your social security number, credit card, or bank account information to sign up for the vaccine. If you receive a call like that, asking for personal information, it’s a scam.

Q. How can I find legitimate vaccine info?

A. Check trusted public websites like those of the CDC, the FTC, your state attorney general, and your state’s public health department.

The CDC’s website has information on the vaccines that are currently approved, and monitors the availability of vaccines. 

The Federal Trade Commission provides consumer alerts, so you can stay up to date on the latest scams. The California Attorney General has a site on COVID-19 related scams as well. For those outside California, find your attorney general’s website here.

Finally, your state or local public health department likely has information on the virus in your area. California has a website on COVID-19 news, including vaccines and shelter-in-place orders. UC Berkeley also has a campus-wide website with its vaccination plan.

Q. Where can I report suspicious-looking vaccine info?

A. Report suspected scams to the FTC, your state’s Attorney General, and your local District Attorney.

To report to the FTC, use the portal at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

To report to the California AG, use this complaint portal

To report to a state attorney general outside of California, find the info here.

Local District Attorney consumer protection units:


This guide is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice.