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Fraud in the vaccine rollout: a global snapshot

Generic vial of COVID-19 vaccine and syringe

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins in Australia, we have been monitoring cases of vaccine program fraud across the globe to learn how fraudsters are taking advantage and how they have been stopped. Here’s a snapshot of the some of the scams we’ve seen:

  • Fraudsters in the UK impersonating the National Health Service and sending emails asking recipients to provide bank details in order to receive the vaccine.
  • Scam callers in Japan offering people the chance to skip the vaccination queue in exchange for a bank deposit.
  • Scammers in the US contacting residents to sell a ticket that guarantees a place on a waiting list for the vaccine.

Across the world, governments are cracking down on COVID-19 fraud and fraudsters are facing the consequences. Here are some examples:

  • In the UK, a man allegedly claiming to work for the National Health Service charged a 92-year old woman £160 before injecting her with a fake vaccine in her home. He faces five charges including fraud by false representation and assault.
  • In the US, 3 men have been accused of setting up a false website that resembled Moderna (American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company) in an attempt to sell fake COVID-19 vaccines. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
  • In the US, a paramedic is facing charges for forging paperwork to cover up the theft of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

These kinds of frauds have significant financial and human impacts. They also have impacts on government outcomes, as they can slow the vaccine rollout and reduce public confidence.

Education is crucial for preventing fraud in the vaccine rollout. You can find more information about COVID-19 vaccination fraud and scams, and how to avoid them, from Scamwatch and on the Department of Health website.

Additional resource

This guidance provides government entities with an understanding of the risks involved when using URLs in SMS communications, key principles to consider if it is absolutely necessary to use a URL in SMS communication and importance of a considered and consistent approach to the use of URLs by all government entities.

Author: Eliza Williams

Eliza Williams

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