Sheriff’s office investigating COVID-19 vaccine scams

By WILLIAM MARLOW / Special to the Reporter

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating a survey scam targeting individuals about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Sheriff’s Office was made aware of the scam on Tuesday, June 8 after receiving multiple reports. According to Dep. Robert Rodriguez, who oversees the department’s community outreach unit, scammers are targeting individuals with unsolicited emails and texts, requesting them to complete a survey about the coronavirus vaccine.

“We’ve been receiving several reports from citizens inquiring about these fake surveys. They’re receiving emails or text messages about the surveys. So, we want to alert our citizens that this is happening so they wouldn’t become a victim to the scam,” Rodriguez said.

The scammers are offering a free product or cash in exchange for completing the survey but then requesting that victims pay shipping and handling fees.

In order to receive the prize, victims are then asked to send credit card information, address information, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other personal information for the prize “delivery.”

However, Rodriguez said that the survey is a scam and that no prizes will arrive.

As vaccination rates pick up across the country, Rodriguez expects these types of scams to become a bigger issue.

“We’re seeing a lot more people trying to get vaccinated or that have been vaccinated, and the numbers keep rising. That makes it easy for people to be targeted. With 70% of the area being vaccinated, that’s a huge phishing pool,” he said.

Older citizens are especially vulnerable to these scams according to Rodriguez because of their inexperience with social media and electronics.

“A lot of times, people who are elderly see something, they take it at face value, and then they click on the link or they call the number back, and that’s how they get the information,” he said.

Many of the same surveys have a myriad of uses, whether to steal information, collect data about a victim in order to commit identity theft, or to even install malware on a victim’s computer or device by clicking on that link.

Recommended following tips to avoid these scams:

  • Don’t give your financial, medical, or personal information to anyone claiming to offer money or gifts in exchange for your participation in a COVID-19 vaccine survey.
  • Carefully examine any message that claims to be from a trusted source. Don’t call or use the number in the email or text. Always verify a phone number with a trusted source before calling.
  • Don’t click on any links or open attachments. Doing so could install harmful malware that steals your personal information without you realizing it.