Montgomery County tracking spike in vaccine appointment scams

As many Maryland seniors struggle to sign up online for vaccination appointments, Montgomery County, Maryland, says it is seeing a surge in scams.

“These crooks are clever, and especially at a time when we are feeling vulnerable,” said Eric Friedman, the director of Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection.

Scams have been rampant throughout the pandemic, but Friedman said he’s seeing numerous phishing scams targeted at seniors looking to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine, and he has advice for the targets.

For one, watch out for advertisements on social media or through email asking for payment to get a spot on a vaccine waiting list or to secure an appointment.

“You never have to pay money to get a test or to get a vaccine,” Friedman said.

Scammers have developed a way around some of the pre-registration systems set up by local governments, health care systems and private pharmacies. The deceptive email messages seek to trick consumers into providing their Social Security numbers, credit card information or bank information, the county said in a video release.

“We recognize that scammers seek to exploit news events and cause financial harm to consumers and businesses. Accordingly, in addition to providing information about vaccines and testing, we also need to provide alerts to prevent residents from becoming the targets and victims of COVID-19-related scams that may cause financial harm,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement.

If a consumer has doubts about whether an offer or contact about a vaccine appointment is legitimate, Friedman’s office recommends calling 311 to double-check.

“We wear a mask to protect ourselves. So we have to protect ourselves when we’re on our computers as well. Just like they tell us to wash our hands for 20 seconds, look at the email message for 20 seconds,” Friedman said.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up