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Bogus vaccine surveys going out to Clevelanders are a scam, experts say

Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 9:19 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Experts say criminals are targeting those who have gotten the vaccine or are trying to be vaccinated.

The first thing you should know, according to our partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad, is that there are no government officials or vaccine manufacturers asking people to fill out surveys about the process right now.

Merrill Henkin says he recently received emails that looked like they were from vaccine manufacturers. They asked him to fill out a survey about his vaccination process.

If you received one too, you can report it to the Scam Squad at 216-443-SCAM (7226).

Henkin says he’d just completed his second does of the Pfizer vaccine when he got the first email.

“At first I thought I had gone to Walgreens for the Pfizer and somehow Pfizer had found out about it,” he said. “I was just so relaxed and happy to have taken the shot.”

He feels those who get the shot are not only helping themselves, but their whole community.

“We all should do this, because it’s safety for us all,” he said.

So, he thought, why not also help the vaccine companies and future recipients by filling out this survey?

Plus, the email offers up to $90 dollars compensation.

However, when he clicked on the survey, he says his phone blocked him from the website.

“That’s when I started to question it,” he said.

He called our partners at the Cuyahoga county scam squad only to realize, the email was indeed some sort of scam, be it phishing or someone trying to install malware on his device.

“It made me feel said that people are taking advantage of... even for something as important as this,” he said.

Henkin’s call is just one of many about the scam that Sheryl Harris says she answered in her office at the Cuyahoga County Department of consumer affairs.

“We really just spotted it and wanted to get the word out,” she said. “People respond for all sorts of reasons.”

Harris says you can change your email settings to give you a preview of the message before opening it.

In cases like this, it’s one of the best ways to avoid clicking on anything you shouldn’t.

“If it’s not anything you recognize, don’t do it,” Henkin said. “That’s what I would hope people would know.”

“These emails are not associated with Pfizer or Moderna,” Harris said. “It’s not info that is being collected by the CDC.”

“You have to be always on the lookout,” Henkin said. “It’s not right, but that’s just the way it is.”

The FTC says they’ve heard from consumers across the country, who clearly got further along in the survey process than Henkin did.

The FTC says people reported that they were offered a free reward, but asked to pay shipping fees.

The agency posted the following tips about any online surveys you may receive:

No legitimate surveys ask for your credit card or bank account number to pay for a “free” reward.

If you get an email or text you’re not sure about:

  • Don’t click on any links or open attachments. Doing so could install harmful malware that steals your personal information without you realizing it.
  • Don’t call or use the number in the email or text. If you want to call the company that supposedly sent the message, look up its phone number online.
  • Don’t give your bank account, credit card, or personal information to someone who contacts you out of the blue.
  • You can filter unwanted text messages on your phone, through your wireless provider, or with a call-blocking app.
  • If you get an email or text that asks for your personal information and you think it could be a scam, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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