KEY POINTS

  • A man, pretending to be from the NHS, made the woman pay for a fake COVID-19 vaccine
  • London authorities are now looking for any information on the man's identity
  • Officials have been warning about fraudulent schemes amid the vaccine roll-out

Amid global efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, scammers seem to be taking advantage of people's urgency to get vaccinated. In London, for instance, a man allegedly tricked a 92-year-old woman into paying £160 (about $216) for a fake COVID-19 vaccine.

On Jan. 8, the City of London Police released a statement asking for the public's help to identify the man who reportedly administered the fake vaccine to the elderly woman at her Surbiton, London, home on Dec. 30.

According to officials, the man told her he was from the National Health Service (NHS) and was there to administer the vaccine. After injecting her using what the woman described to be a "dart-like implement," he charged her £160, saying the NHS would reimburse her.

He returned on Jan. 4 to charge her another £100 ($135) for the inoculation.

It is unclear as to what the man injected the woman with or if he administered anything at all. Officials noted she fortunately did not experience any adverse effects.

"This is a disgusting and totally unacceptable assault on a member of the public which won't be tolerated," Detective Inspector Kevin Ives of the City of London Police's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said in the statement.

Officials are now looking for any information that could lead to the man's identity. 

Beware Of COVID-19 Vaccine Fraud

Fraudulent claims have been rampant even earlier during the pandemic, with some products claiming to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned, such products could even be potentially harmful.

And, as nations begin the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines, it's likely the next scams would be related to them.

In December, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) urged the public to be aware of the signs of possible COVID-19 vaccine-related fraud. This may include advertisements for early access to the vaccine for a fee, being requested to pay out-of-pocket for the vaccine, touting FDA-approval claims that cannot be verified, and being contacted by someone who claims that the government is requiring you to get the vaccine.

To avoid such schemes, the FBI recommends only getting the vaccine through authorized distribution channels and staying up-to-date with the information on the vaccines from official agencies.

For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides recommendations on the vaccination roll-out, but each state may also choose to adopt its own vaccination plan. Therefore, it's important to stay updated about your state's own vaccination guidelines.

It's also important to keep health and personal information private, and to check one's medical bills for any possible errors or inconsistencies, the FBI said.

Possible COVID-19 fraud may be reported to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

covid vaccine A COVID-19 vaccine is pictured. Photo: AFP / Nicolas ASFOURI