The NHS has teamed up with law enforcement and security agencies to warn people not to fall victim to scammers trying to exploit the coronavirus vaccine campaign.
Their joint warning comes amid a number of reports of criminals attempting to steal cash or personal details from people keen to get the vaccine – and in some cases succeeding
In one extreme case, a man in London knocked on the door of a 92-year-old woman and administered her with a fake vaccine before taking a £160 payment which he told her would be reimbursed by the NHS.
In other cases, people are reporting suspicious text messages with a link to a booking site which mimics an NHS page, but asks for personal details including bank account numbers. Scammers have also been known to use telephone calls to extract payments or bank details which can then be sold to organised criminal gangs or used to order and pay for goods online.
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS Medical Director for Primary Care, said: “We know how excited people are to get the vaccine when it’s their turn to do so, but sadly we’re seeing that excitement is also bringing out the cheats, crooks and con-people looking to make money from this life-saving programme.
“Remember, the vaccine will always be free on the NHS. Our staff will never ask for or accept cash for vaccines, never ask for your banking details or identity documents, and will never come around to your house unannounced.”
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, added: “Anyone asking for payment for the vaccine is committing fraud. If you have received a text message, email or phone call where someone has tried to charge you for the vaccine please report this to Action Fraud, even if you haven’t given them any money. Your report can help us protect others.”
As well as Action Fraud, other crime-fighting agencies involved in the campaign against Covid-19 scammers are the National Crime Agency and the National Cyber Security Centre. Their joint advice is as follows:
In the UK, coronavirus vaccines will only be available via the National Health Services of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, a GP surgery or pharmacy local to you, to receive your vaccine. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge. At no point will you be asked to pay.
- The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
- The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
- The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
- The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to email@example.com. Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge. If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, report it to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic. It is vital that we do not let a small number of unscrupulous fraudsters undermine the huge team effort under way across the country to protect millions of people from this terrible disease.
“This new advice is a crucial reminder that you will never be charged for the vaccine and NHS England will never ask for your bank details, PIN numbers or passwords when contacting you about a vaccination.”