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Crime And Courts

Oregonians warned to beware of COVID-19 vaccine scammers

By Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- COVID-19 vaccines have brought hope there's an end in sight for the pandemic, but Oregonians are being warned to watch out for scammers looking to exploit the good news.

Ellen Klem, director of consumer outreach and education for the Oregon attorney general, said she's grateful there hasn't been a significant number of scams reported to her office yet.

However, she pointed out there are some things folks should watch out for.

"If somebody contacts you out of the blue and makes promises, said things like they can 'get you to the head of the line for a small fee,' that is a big red flag that it is a scam," Klem cautioned.

Klem noted people don't have to pay for the vaccine. It's only being offered through federal and state partners, and was recently expanded to certain pharmacies.

Scams took their toll on consumers last year. The Federal Trade Commission reports Americans lost $3.3 billion to fraud in 2020.

Suzan Turley, a volunteer for AARP Oregon, advised people never to click on a link from someone they don't know, and to engage their inner skeptic in general for offers that sound too good to be true.

She added that it took her five days to get an appointment for a vaccine, and understands the process can be frustrating.

"That frustration is what scammers feed on," Turley explained. "Luckily, I have a grandchild, and I would say this is a good tip: If you have a grandchild that's very computer-literate, they can help you out."

Turley suggested people also can call 211 for help navigating the process.

Even for tech-savvy folks, Klem warned it's important to be cautious about the information they share and with whom they share it.

"It's a tough line to walk, because we really want and are encouraging folks to get the vaccine," Klem observed. "I just don't want people to lose their personal or financial well-being in the process."

Klem said people can file complaints at Oregonconsumer.gov. They can also find out more about which scams are active in their area through the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

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