The crooks behind a growing number of scam messages purporting to offer the COVID-19 vaccine in return for a fee have been branded ‘morally debased’ by a leading local pharmacist.
Reports of people receiving unsolicited calls, texts and emails, sometimes claiming to be from the NHS or even the World Health Organisation, offering the vaccine for money are increasing in our region and further afield.
Some scam calls ask the victim to connect to an operator which could result in being connected to a premium rate phone line.
The NHS, GPs or other legitimate health care providers will never ask for money in return for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Commenting on the scam messages, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s associate director of medicines optimisation Dr Mojgan Sani said: “When society is in such difficulty and distress, our responsibility to make a constructive contribution to human affairs becomes more pronounced.
“Anyone morally debased enough would seek to exploit fears around COVID-19 by scamming people for money is clearly diverging from this.
“However, our united efforts and hard work will ensure resilience, integrity and great hope for the future.”
“The vaccine is free of charge to everyone. No matter how convincing the call or message may seem, if they are asking for a single penny, it’s a scam.
“My colleagues in the Trust and GP networks are doing everything we can to be there for our communities throughout this pandemic. From offering safety advice to providing first-rate care, and now rolling out the vaccine, and the last thing we need is people preying on local people who are understandably concerned and worried.
“Please don’t fall victim to these criminals.”
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “Unfortunately we’ve had worrying reports of people that have been contacted over the phone, via emails or on the doorstep by scammers purporting to offer a COVID-19 vaccination in exchange for money.
“The key things to remember are that any COVID-19 vaccine will always be free of charge, the NHS will never ask for bank details as a form of identity and nobody needs to apply to get the vaccine – you will be contacted directly by the NHS when it’s your turn.
“These shameful opportunists are taking advantage of often vulnerable or elderly people’s anxieties so we are warning everyone to make sure that they and their loved ones are on their guard against this happening.”
Things to look out for:
• You don’t need to apply for a vaccine – you’ll be contacted by the NHS directly
• The NHS will never use bank details to confirm your identity
• The vaccine is completely free of any charge
• If someone calls you, do you recognise the number?
• Never feel pressured – a legitimate NHS caller will never push you for a decision
• If you are at unsure, hang up and contact your GP surgery
• Check the link addresses on any texts or email – does it look correct? Check there are no subtle inconsistencies in spelling or punctuation
• The government will never text you demanding money
• Report a suspicious call/text/email to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via www.actionfraud.police.uk – if the message turns out to be legitimate, they will not mind you checking with the authorities
Elaine Johnson, a Trust personal assistant, received a scam call herself on Tuesday. She said: “Someone called saying they were from the NHS and offering a jab for a fee. As soon as I told them I work for the NHS, they hung up on me!”
For up to date advice on COVID-19 scams: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/coronavirus-scam-calls-and-texts