The Department of Justice has received reports that fraudsters are creating fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine surveys for consumers to fill out with the promise of a prize or cash at the conclusion of the survey. In reality, the surveys are used to steal money from consumers and unlawfully capture consumers’ personal information.
Consumers receive the surveys via email and text message, and are told that, as a gift for filling out the survey, they can choose from various free prizes, such as an iPad Pro. The messages claim that the consumers need only pay shipping and handling fees to receive their prize. Victims provide their credit card information and are charged for shipping and handling fees, but never receive the promised prize. Victims also are exposing their personally identifiable information (PII) to scammers, thereby increasing the probability of identity theft.
Unless from a known and verified source, consumers should never click on links in text messages or emails claiming to be a vaccine survey.
Schemes that use links embedded in unsolicited text messages and emails in attempts to obtain personally identifiable information are commonly referred to as phishing schemes. Phishing messages may look like they come from government agencies, financial intuitions, shipping companies, and social media companies, among many others. Carefully examine any message purporting to be from a company and do not click on a link in an unsolicited email or text message. Remember that companies generally do not contact you to ask for your username or password. When in doubt, contact the entity purportedly sending you the message, but do not rely on any contact information in the potentially fraudulent message.
If you receive a text message or email claiming to be a COVID-19 vaccine survey and containing a link or other contact information, please report the communication to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud. Intellectual property crimes such as these also may be reported to federal law enforcement at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) at http://www.IPRCenter.gov.
If you believe you may have entered information into a fraudulent website, you can find resources on how to protect your information at: www.identitytheft.gov.
To learn more about identifying and protecting yourself from phishing attempts, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams or https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/spoofing-and-phishing.
Further information about major scams targeting American consumers can be found at the Justice Department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force website: https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch/transnational-elder-fraud-strike-force.
This alert is provided by the IPR Center and the Consumer Protection Branch of the department’s Civil Division.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.