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Tips to avoid vaccine scammers released by NY consumer agency

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado attends

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado attends a media briefing on the state's COVID-19 response in the Bronx on May 30. Credit: Sipa USA via AP/Photographer Lev Radin

Sending phony emails and text messages containing harmful web links meant to steal personal information. Pretending to be an online seller of the vaccination. Making robocalls claiming to provide helpful information.

Those are three of the ways the state’s Division of Consumer Protection says that scammers "are using techniques that typically arise with a major global event," according to a "Consumer Alert" the division issued Tuesday.

An unsigned email Tuesday from the division’s press office, in response to a reporter’s inquiry, said the division had received no reports of such scams related to COVID but put out the alert based on past scams.

"The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccination brings along hope for so many of us, but it also creates new opportunities for unscrupulous scammers to attempt to lure people into unintentionally providing their personal information," Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said in the alert.

Coronavirus vaccination is free and being administered according to a government-set schedule prioritizing those most vulnerable to infection. The state’s website outlining vaccine information is www.ny.gov/vaccine.; a phone number for information is 888-364-3065.

The alert counsels against clicking on links from unknown recipients, because doing so can download a virus onto your computer or device. The alerts suggests keeping antivirus and anti-malware software updated and ignoring supposed offers to expedite the vaccine administration — "ask yourself: is an ad or sales pitch a trusted source of information?" the alert says.

And hang up on, rather than engaging with, a robocaller.

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"Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead."

The alert also quotes state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker: "As we begin the monumental and historic task of vaccinating New Yorkers for COVID-19, we must be mindful of following verification protocols that will ensure a safe and effective vaccination process … New Yorkers can do their part by keeping their personal health information safe and questioning any requests for information that are not affiliated with a trusted health or government entity."

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