Scam warning ahead of COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Scam warning ahead of COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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Scam warnings have been issued by Australia's consumer watchdog ahead of the vaccine rollout this month. Picture: Shutterstock

Scam warnings have been issued by Australia's consumer watchdog ahead of the vaccine rollout this month. Picture: Shutterstock

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The consumer watchdog has warned scammers could try and offer early access to vaccines in exchange for money.

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The federal government is looking into how potential scams could threaten to disrupt the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

It comes as Australia's consumer watchdog issued a fresh warning of the potential for people to try to profit off uncertainty about vaccine access when distribution begins on Monday.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said scammers could try and offer early access to the Pfizer vaccine in exchange for money.

The commission said scammers could also try and offer vaccines that are already available overseas.

"These offers may include requests for up-front payments for access to vaccines - these offers are not legitimate," a commission spokeswoman said.

"Don't send money to people who contact you out of the blue offering services that would normally be offered by your health professionals."

Since the beginning of this year, the commission said it has received 13 reports of scams relating to COVID-19 vaccines.

Of those 13, six were investment scams, offering opportunities to invest in a vaccine, while four of them offered people a chance to participate in surveys about COVID-19 vaccinations.

A further two concerned the publication of anti-vaccination material.

No reports offering fake vaccines to Australians have been received by the commission.

However, the number of vaccine-related scams so far in 2021 is almost half of that recorded for the whole of 2020.

"We can confirm Australians did receive scam calls offering to sell vaccines in 2020," the commission spokeswoman said.

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The federal government said it was actively monitoring the situation surrounding potential vaccine scams.

"The Australian government is considering scenarios that could influence the likelihood and impact of a vaccine scam, and how to minimise any associated risk," a federal health department spokesman said.

"The Department of Health is focused on being a single, reliable and trusted source of information on COVID-19 and Australia's response to the pandemic."

Stage one of the vaccine rollout in Australia is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Those eligible to receive the vaccine first include healthcare and quarantine workers, including workers and residents in aged-care facilities.

The government has already launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign about the vaccine rollout and its safety.

The ads will be displayed on TV, radio, print, online and on social media.

One of the faces of the campaign is executive director of medical services at Canberra Hospital Dr Nick Coatsworth.

The former deputy chief medical officer said reliable public information was essential during the vaccine rollout.

"While I think our vaccine program and rollout is very secure and well planned, we need to be attuned to any eventuality that might undermine the program," Dr Coatsworth said.

"There's instances at the moment around the world of people perpetuating scams and activists wanting to undermine the vaccine program."

The story Scam warning ahead of COVID-19 vaccine rollout first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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