Protecting Veterans and Military Families from COVID-19 Vaccine Scams
By Hank Greenberg, AARP Maryland State Director
Scammers followed the headlines in 2020, as they always do. And while we’re all relieved to turn the calendar, the uncertainty that marked the last year isn’t going away any time soon. We also know scammers will continue to try to take advantage of people in 2021.
Just as COVID-19 vaccine administration is ramping up, so are the scams surrounding them. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) already has issued a warning for veterans and military families to avoid fake COVID-19 vaccine offers. In a January 2021 report, the VA says “scammers are calling, texting, and emailing Veterans with promises of vaccine availability and early access to vaccines. These promises are lies.” In fact, VA says these criminals actually are after your sensitive, personal information, such as Social Security Number, DD214 papers, and ultimately your money.
According to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, this isn’t the first time scammers have used the pandemic to drum up another scheme to steal from military veterans. Some of the COVID-related scams targeting veterans and military families included:
- Stimulus check scams
- Bogus coronavirus products;
- Fake testing and TRICARE scams;
- Fake charities to help veterans and military families; and,
- Stimulus check scams.
With veterans and military families twice as likely as civilians to be targeted by con artists, those who wore America’s uniform must remain ever vigilant. As far as COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, expect the limited supply of vaccines in early 2021 to be available only to certain high-risk populations. So, when you see an ad, email, text message, or you pick up a call and the offer is to reserve your vaccine for a fee, know it’s a scam. Listen to your health care provider and health authorities for guidance and ignore all else.
The VA’s January 2021 report reiterates that VA will never request money, your full Social Security Number, nor personal health information through phone, email, or text message during a vaccination request call. And, VA will never require payment in exchange for providing the vaccine early, nor require payment to become eligible for the vaccine.
If someone contacts you and violates any of these basic principles, immediately hang up the phone or disregard the email. Be a fraud fighter and report it to AARP’s free Fraud Watch Helpline (877-908-3360). If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
COVID-19 Resources from the Veterans Administration
Did you know? Veterans and their families can connect directly with the VA to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and the VA’s vaccination process, which now includes veterans' caregivers:
Toll-free VA HELPLINE: 1-800-MyVA411 press 8 (1-800-698-2411)
On-line Website: https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/
News You Can Use
- NEW from AARP: Vaccines for Veteran Caregivers Now Part of VA Plans; El VA Planea Vaucnar Primero A Lost Trabajadores De La Salud Y A Los Veteranos En Centros De Atenion A Largo Plazo
- NEW from the VA: Veteran Caregivers Can Receive COVID-19 Testing, Vaccinations
- AARP’s Operation Protect Veterans Free Resources on VA.gov: How Veterans Can Fight Fraud in 2021
- NEW from AARP: Lost in Translation - A Veteran Identity Crisis
- Digital Volunteer Opportunity!: Volunteer with AARP’s Virtual Veteran Brigade
For more timely information and free resources to help Veterans and Military Families, visit AARP.org/Veterans.