Scammers calling to book fake vaccine appointments, B.C. police warn

·2 min read
Fraudsters are calling people to tell them they're next in line for a vaccine, and then asking them for personal information like their address and credit card details. (CBC - image credit)
Fraudsters are calling people to tell them they're next in line for a vaccine, and then asking them for personal information like their address and credit card details. (CBC - image credit)

Police in B.C. are again warning the public about scams related to COVID-19 vaccines.

On Thursday, police in West Vancouver said its officers have seen multiple reports of fraudsters calling someone by phone and telling them they're next in line for a vaccine. The fraudster asks the person to provide some personal information, like their address and credit card details, to set up a "home visit" so they can get their shot.

"At this stage [in the vaccination rollout], nobody will be calling you to set up a home vaccine appointment. If you receive a call like this, hang up immediately," said Const. Kevin Goodmurphy.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talked about vaccine phone scammers.

"We've also heard sadly that some people are trying to take advantage of older people," she said.

"We want to remind people that we will never ask for credit card information or any payment and if someone does ask for this type of information they are not from the health authority and you need to hang up.

Jo Currie, 78, made a vaccine appointment for her 90-year-old husband in Nanaimo on Monday. On Wednesday she received a voice message from a 1-844 number, from a woman named Natalia who said she was calling from Island Health to book an appointment.

Currie, concerned that something had gone wrong with her appointment, phoned the number back, only to find it didn't ring. She then phoned Nanaimo RCMP to report the call.

"The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was probably a scam," she said.

"I got mad. If it was a scam, it's a very unfair kind of scam for seniors."

CBC was able to confirm with Island Health that the call Currie reported as a potential scam was, in fact, a legitimate call from the health authority.

What may have made it suspicious is that when people call the number back, there is a several second delay in the system before Island Health answers with a recorded message. Additionally, the phone number does not come up as connected to Island Health when Googled.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has also received reports of more than a dozen scams and frauds linked to COVID-19 vaccines. The centre has stressed that the only way to access real vaccines is through clinics organized by your local public health authority.

Immunize B.C. has also issued warnings about buying fake vaccines online.

B.C. is currently in the second phase of its vaccine rollout plan, which is focused on protecting seniors. Those who are eligible for a vaccine have to call their local health authority to book an appointment — not the other way around.

Anyone who believes they've been a victim of fraud is asked to call police.