Since most people have already received their COVID relief checks, grifters have pivoted to phishing attempts related to vaccines—and it’s catching people off guard. The FTC is warning people to stay away from unsolicited texts or emails offering a reward for filling out a survey about vaccines, as they say it’s a scam. Here’s what you need to know, and how to avoid it.
How does the scam work?
A scammer posing as a vaccine manufacturer will send you a vaccine-related survey request via email or text message. These requests will also promise a reward for completing the survey, sometimes in cash or more often a “free gift,” like an iPad. The survey questions will seem authentic, too, which might explain why many people have been falling for the scam (as one victim described it: “nothing about the survey that aroused my suspicion—and I’m a skeptic!”).
To claim the prize, however, you’ll be asked to pay a smaller “shipping” or “handling” fee and type out your banking information into a phony form. Of course, no prize will ever be shipped or handled. The scammers will try to steal your money using your bank account details, along with any other personal details you’ve shared.
How to avoid survey scams
The FTC says that no legitimate surveys will ever ask for your credit card or the bank account number to “pay” for a free reward. And there’s also no reason why a vaccine manufacturer would require personal information like your social security number or date of birth—especially in an unsolicited text of email. The Better Business Bureau, which has also issued an alert about survey scams, offers these tips on how to avoid them:
- The email claims to have information about you, but you never signed up for it. Scams often pretend to be personalized for you, but they are actually blast emails. Don’t fall for this! If you never signed up for emails from a company, you shouldn’t be receiving them.
- Pushes you to act immediately: Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. Always be wary of emails urging you to act immediately or face a consequence.
- Watch for typos, strange phrasing and bad grammar. Scammers can easily copy a brand’s name, but awkward wording and poor grammar are typically a giveaway that the message is a scam. For example, one version of the survey scam impersonating Pfizer uses the wrong company logo.
- Hover over URLs to reveal their true destination. Typically, the hyperlinked text will say one thing, but the link will point somewhere else. Make sure the links actually lead to the business’s official website, not a variation of the domain name.
If you get an email or text that asks for your personal information and you think it could be a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.