Beware COVID-19 Vaccine Scams!

By Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, Santa Barbara County, Behavioral Wellness Department

It is sad that in addition to dealing with a worldwide pandemic, we also need to be vigilant about scammers who are trying to cheat people out of their money. During the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are using robocalls, social media posts, and emails to take advantage of fear, anxiety, and confusion about COVID-19. They sell things that don’t work, charge money for things that are free, and steal personal information.

Beware! COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed in Santa Barbara County in a fair and transparent way and always at no charge. If someone offers to sell you a chance to get vaccinated before it is your turn, it’s a scam.

Right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is only being offered to front line healthcare workers, people who live in long-term care facilities and those over 75 years of age.  As more vaccine is available it will be offered to everyone.

Information about how to get the vaccine is posted on the Santa Barbara County Public Health COVID-19 webpage:

If you have questions, talk to your doctor. COVID-19 vaccine will be given to Santa Barbara County residents at no cost and regardless of immigration status. If someone says they can get you a special, low-cost deal, or get you the vaccine under the table, it’s a scam.

You will not be charged a fee or co-pay to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The doctor or pharmacy may charge a fee for giving the vaccine, but it should be covered by public and private insurance companies. People without health insurance can get COVID-19 vaccines for free.

You will NOT be asked about your immigration status when you get a COVID vaccine. Your medical information is private. Your doctor is not allowed to share it with immigration officials.

A RED FLAG is a warning sign or signal that something might be a scam. Look out for these COVID-19 vaccine scam red flags:

  • Someone offers to move you into an earlier group to get the vaccine for a fee.
  • Someone tries to sell you a place on a COVID vaccine waiting list. There is no “vaccine waiting list.”
  • Someone on the street, online, on social media, or knocking on your door tries to sell you a shot of vaccine.
  • You get calls, texts, or emails about the vaccine. The caller asks for your personal or financial information. It can be your Social Security, bank account or credit card number. NEVER share these numbers or other personal information with an unknown caller or in a text or email.
  • You see ads for fake vaccines or “miracle cures” using vitamins or other dietary supplements. Scammers promote these even though they have not been proven to work. The FDA has issued warning letters to many companies for selling products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.
  • If anyone that isn’t well known in your community (like a doctor, a health care clinic, a pharmacy, a County health program) offers you a vaccine – think twice and check with your doctor.

Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, is the County of Santa Barbara’s Chief Quality Care and Strategy Officer and is responsible for leadership of Quality Care and Strategy Management within the Department of Behavioral Wellness.