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Friday, May 7, 2021
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Australians warned of COVID-19 vaccine scams as rollout starts

With Australia’s nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout now underway, people are being warned of a number of online scams set up to capitalise on the program.

Vaccine-related URLs are being purchased, emails, texts and calls coming from ostensibly official sources asking for payments to be put on a “list”, and sales ads on social media for COVID-19 vaccines.

The official advice is recommending Australians seek COVID-19 vaccine advice through official channels; be that the Australian Government’s Department of Health website, the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website.

The Commonwealth Government has repeatedly informed the public that COVID-19 vaccines will be free for all Australian citizens, permanent residents and temporary visa-holders as per the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.

An ACCC spokesperson told Canberra Weekly that so far this year they have received 16 Scamwatch reports concerning COVID-19 vaccines.

“The public should be aware that scammers may try to contact people via telephone or other communication means to offer access to overseas vaccines or early access to Australian vaccines for COVID-19,” they said.

“The offers may include requests for upfront payments for access to vaccines – these offers are not legitimate.

“Don’t send money to people who contact you out of the blue offering services that would normally be offered by your health professionals.”

An ACT Health spokesperson told Canberra Weekly they were disappointed to see COVID-19 vaccine scam materials being distributed.

“We understand that people have many questions about the vaccine rollout,” they said.

“We strongly urge all Canberrans to equip themselves with accurate and up-to-date information from credible and trustworthy sources, so that they can make the best decision for themselves and their families.

“Canberrans have been very responsive to the public health advice on COVID-19 … we are confident that this will be followed through with the vaccine rollout.”

The TGA are warning against importing or purchasing COVID-19 vaccines online.

“Vaccines bought online are likely to be unsafe and ineffective,” they said.

“These vaccines could also be counterfeit (fake). People or websites claiming to sell a COVID-19 vaccine may not deliver any product, and they may instead steal your money or your personal information.”

Scammers often create websites, advertise through social media or use SMS messages that look genuine.

“Always verify the information by checking an independent or trusted source,” they said.

The TGA is working closely with the Australian Border Force (ABF) to stop unlawful imports of COVID-19 vaccines.

Breaking the laws related to therapeutic goods in Australia can result in substantial penalties, fines or imprisonment. “The TGA takes action against suspected illegal activity.”

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