Officials warn against COVID-19 scams | Local News | heraldmailmedia.com – Herald-Mail Media

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Health and law enforcement officials are warning about a growing effort to sell and distribute fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general issued an advisory March 30 about fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, whether it is the selling of them or encouraging others to print them at home.

The advisory said the use of a government agency’s seal, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a federal crime.

But Hagerstown Police Department Lt. Rebecca Fetchu said in a Thursday email she was not aware of any such fraud being reported to the department.

"The only way to get a legitimate vaccination card is to actually get the vaccine and be given the card by a health care professional," she said. "Making or purchasing vaccination cards to sell or otherwise use is fraudulent."

Fetchu also said people should not post pictures of their vaccination cards with identifying information, such as name and date of birth, which could be used elsewhere potentially for identity theft.

Sgt. Carly Hose with the Washington County Sheriff's Office said in a phone interview Thursday that she was not aware of any local reports either.

"But it's like with anything else, we advise the community to practice due diligence and fact-checking," she said.

Hose said not to give out any information to unverified sources.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland recently seized three websites that claimed to be actual biotechnology companies developing treatments for the COVID-19 virus, the office announced in a news release.

The sites were allegedly used to collect the personal information of individuals visiting the sites in order to use the information for purposes including fraud, phishing attacks, and/or deployment of malware. Individuals visiting those sites now see a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and are redirected to another site for additional information.

In total, eight fraudulent websites that sought to illegally profit from the COVID-19 pandemic have been seized, acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said in the release.

“We urge all Maryland residents to be skeptical — don’t provide personal information or click on links in unsolicited e-mails and remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is not for sale," Lenzner said. "The Federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States. We will continue to aggressively prosecute fraudsters who seek to prey on unsuspecting residents and their families.”

According to the affidavits filed in support of the seizures, the investigations began in March when Homeland Security Investigations and the National Intellectual Property Rights Center received notification of two fraudulent websites, “genobioscience.com” and “healthbridgescience.com.”

The third site, “global-pandemic-vaccines.com,” was discovered by Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crimes Center during ongoing investigations for malicious websites. The cases were referred to HSI Baltimore for investigation.

Potential victims of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721.

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