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FTC: Don't Fall for COVID 'Vaccine Survey' Scams

No legitimate surveys ask for credit card or bank account details to pay for a 'free' reward.

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This story originally appeared on PCMag

Nothing is safe from online scammers—not even COVID-19. The Federal Trade Commission this week urged folks to beware of bogus vaccine surveys.

People across the country are reporting unexpected emails and texts asking them to complete a limited-time survey about the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine. The FTC suspects there's probably one for the Johnson & Johnson jab, too.

Related: AstraZeneca May Have Used Outdated Data in Vaccine Trial (Updated)

"Right now, we are offering a rewards program for adults who offer their opinion about AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine," reads one scam highlighted by the FTC. "Complete this short 30-second survey about your experience with Moderna COVID-19 VACCINE to select one of our exclusive reward offers," another said.

In exchange for supplying information—like a credit card or bank account number—participants are offered a "free reward" (minimum $90), but asked to pay shipping fees. "If you get an email or text like this, STOP," senior project manager Colleen Tressler said (emphasis her own). "It's a scam.

This comes nearly a year after the consumer protection agency warned that fraudsters were using new contact tracing systems to spread malware and collect personal data from a frightened public.

In this age of connectivity, it's easy for someone to get duped. So, if you do receive a dubious email or text—about COVID immunization or anything else—do not click any links or open any attachments, which may contain harmful malware. Also, never give your bank account, credit card, or personal information to someone who contacts you out of the blue.

As the FTC pointed out, you can filter unwanted text messages through your wireless provider or a call-blocking app. And if you receive a questionable message or call that you think is a scam, report it immediately.

Written By

Stephanie began as a PCMag reporter in May 2012. She moved to New York City from Frederick, Md., where she worked for four years as a multimedia reporter at the second-largest daily newspaper in Maryland. She interned at Baltimore magazine and graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (in the town of Indiana, in the state of Pennsylvania) with a degree in journalism and mass communications.