London, January 9
Fraudsters are targeting elderly and vulnerable people with a vaccine scam and asking for bank details or cash payments for access to COVID-19 vaccines that are fake or non-existent, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) warned the British public in a message this week.
As the UK’s vaccination programme involving the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs began expanding to National Health Service (NHS) hospitals and centres, the authorities have also been alerted to scams including a case being investigated by the City of London Police of a 92-year-old woman being defrauded of 160 pounds by a man posing as a “vaccinator”.
The NCA said it is working with the government and law enforcement to urge people to remain vigilant and follow basic advice in relation to the NHS COVID vaccination programme, which will always be free and that the NHS will never ask for payment for vaccines or bank details.
“The current level of reported fraud in relation to the vaccine remains very low but is increasing,” said Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA.
“The advice is very simple. The vaccine is only available on the NHS, and you will never be asked to pay for it or to provide your bank details. Anything that suggests otherwise is a fraud,” he said.
In the UK, coronavirus vaccines are only available via the NHS in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. At the appropriate time, eligible people based on the risk criteria set will be contacted directly by the NHS, an employer, a general practice (GP) surgery or local pharmacy to receive the vaccine. However, the authorities are keen to stress that the vaccine is free of charge and at no point will people be asked to pay.
“This latest scam, which plays on people’s hopes for a vaccine, is one of the most callous and despicable so far, which is why we want to arm everyone with the knowledge that the NHS will never ask for cash or financial details to pay for the vaccine or verify a patient’s identity,” said UK Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez.
“It’s a sad reality that scammers and fraudsters are using the pandemic to fleece innocent people out of their hard-earned cash. If you receive an email, text message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS and you are asked to provide financial details, or pay for the vaccine, this is a scam,” added UK Security Minister James Brokenshire.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber reporting centre, has warned that it has received around 57 reports of COVID-19 vaccination scams and reiterated the message for the public to be vigilant. — PTI