Scammers targeting COVID-19 vaccine recipients with promise of rewards

Better Call 4

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Audrey Lukasak received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, March 3. The following Sunday, she got an email.

“It looked like it was from Pfizer,” she said.

It was a survey about the vaccine.

“Some of the questions, just kind of asking for symptoms, asking how it was,” Lukasak said of the email.

At the end of it was a list of rewards to choose from for taking part. All she had to do was pay for shipping.

“Put in my credit card information, and as soon as I hit ‘Submit,’ the postage and handling was double,” Lukasak said. “That was the trigger. I, it’s like, I just participated in a scam.”

A quick internet search of legitimate surveys confirmed it. That’s when Lukasak called her bank to report fraud and cancel her credit card.

“And I thought, if I can help one person not fall for this,” she said. “That’s when I contacted you.”

And NBC 4 contacted the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio, which has been tracking scams during the pandemic.

Jessica Kapcar with the BBB said this is the first time the agency’s heard of this scam.

“That’s terrifying,” Kapcar said. “Thank you for telling me that, because we had not heard that twist on it yet.”

But on Monday, March 15, Better Call 4 Producer Steve received a similar email. Because of what Lukasak said, he decided to check it out, and was redirected three times before ending up on the survey site. Then — a warning, that the site could be unsafe.

And just like Lukasak, Steve received the email about three days after he got his first shot.

If you receive one of these emails, do your research to make sure it’s real.

Do not enter any personal or financial information, one of the many lessons Lukasak said she’s learned.

“To really be mindful, that as more and more people are being vaccinated, there will be scammers out there who will take advantage,” she said.

It’s also important to look closely at where or who the email is coming from.  One red flag Lukasak said she missed in her haste to help is the message she received came from a Hotmail account, not a Pfizer email address.

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