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Frauds During Pandemic

Just because we’re in a brand-new year and (still) navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t be fooled into thinking scam artists are taking a break. Far from it, unfortunately.

These conniving criminals are more wily than ever and that’s why I want to warn everyone to avoid getting sucked into scams concerning two things that are on Floridians’ minds: the coronavirus and the expected next round of federal stimulus payments.

As Floridians wait to schedule appointments to receive the virus vaccine, this puts people at risk for scammers who would exploit the global health crisis and prey on our anxiety.

So Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody offers two helpful programs on her website

  • Scams at a Glance offers downloadable information in English and Spanish.
  • Consumer Alerts are warnings to alert residents.

More than 30 COVID-19 scam alerts have been issued since the pandemic began last March. Topics range from Do Not Pay To Reserve A COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment, to Avoid COVID-19 Vaccine And Distribution Scams, to Watch Out For Fraud As Stimulus Payments Are Deposited And Mailed, to name a few.

Here are tips to help you avoid COVID-19 vaccine-related scams from the Attorney General’s Office:

Remember: Anyone asking for money in exchange for an appointment is a scam;

Check with county health departments for local vaccine distribution guidelines;

Be wary of any website where pop-up ads solicit a vaccine appointment;
Look for “https” or a padlock icon in the website name to ensure that you are on a secure website; and

Report suspicious solicitations or COVID-19 vaccine-related ads to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1.866.9NO.SCAM (1.866.966.7226) or

As another round of stimulus payments is expected in coming months, here are tips from a new Scams At A Glance brochure about avoiding scams designed to steal federal money:

NEVER respond to text messages, e-mails, or ads directing you to click on a link;

NEVER provide any personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited message;

NEVER trust caller ID displays claiming a call is from the IRS—that’s because spoofing technology allows scammers to change phone displays to impersonate government agencies; and

NEVER make any advance payment to secure or expedite access to a benefit.
I just can’t say it enough: During these uncertain times, it’s vital that you watch for red flags that are signs of scammers, such as:

  • Receiving unsolicited phone calls or emails;
  • Encountering high-pressure tactics or too-good-to-be-true offers;
  • Threats of loss if you don’t take immediate action;
  • Requests for immediate payment by wire transfer, credit, prepaid debit, or gift cards.

Don’t fall for any of these ruses. Your financial well-being depends on it. If you have doubts about an e-mail or phone call, consult a trusted friend or family member. If you feel you’ve become a victim of fraud, call us at our non-emergency number: 386.248.1777.

Please continue to stay safe as we look forward to a better new year.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood