Looking at what steps people can take to protect themselves from falling victim to these scams, we spoke to Gareth Norris, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, at Aberystwyth University.
Sputnik: How commonplace are these examples of COVID vaccine fraud?
Gareth Norris: Well, a lot of things that we think we know about fraud are probably limited to the cases that we get reported. So, although we can estimate that they're quite common, and they are quite common, we don't know how many attempts of fraud are made because we very rarely, unless our house was burgled you might report it to the police, but we're very unlikely to do that every time we receive a scam email or text. So, we don't really know necessarily how many attempts there are but there's certainly a lot of examples of people falling for it, or nearly falling for it, or reporting it. So, they are quite commonplace these scams, but we don't really have a full idea of how many attempts if you like are made.
Gareth Norris: There's no real target as such. Occasionally, they will seek out individual people and they will maybe target certain demographics, or they may for example get email addresses from certain online forums or groups, phone numbers even, so they can sometimes do that where they might want to target for example older people, because they believe that older people are more desperate for this vaccine or are more likely to be duped, we have this perception that that happens but really anybody can be a victim of it. Most of these scams are just sending out messages to lists of email, lists of phone numbers that they've either bought or found online, and they just send them out en masse. If they send 2,000 and they only get a couple of responses that's all they really need, and once somebody's hooked in, they can often defraud them of a lot of money, but anybody really can be a victim. They're not necessarily targeting specific people.
Sputnik: What signs can people look out for and in terms of prevention, what actions can individuals take to ensure that they don't fall victim to these scams?
Gareth Norris: The most important thing is to never with any scam or any messages you receive, you've got to be careful not to just immediately respond and as a kind of saying, act in haste repent at leisure. That's not to victimise people, or place the blame on people for responding to these, because everybody's waiting and wants to get their vaccine. So, people are there primed ready but at the same time we've got to be just careful about what information we actually receive, and how we go about acting on it. The most important thing is if you do get a message and you do think that someone's contacting you, you then go to the actual source, so there'll be instructions there about what to do with you, going to get your vaccine - what do you need to do.
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