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'They're going to rob them:' St. Johns woman warns people of COVID-19 related scams

Bonnie Altman was trying to get her vaccine in St. Johns County in January with no luck. Later that day, she got a call from an unknown number but she picked up.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Several days a week, thousands of people hit refresh over and over trying to secure a vaccine appointment. People are desperate for spots. When people are desperate, in come the scammers.

Bonnie Altman was trying to get her vaccine in St. Johns County in early January with no luck. Later that day, she got a call from an unknown number but she picked up.

“This woman started out saying she was from the state of Florida calling about COVID-19," Altman said. "Well we’ve all been trying to get on that list.”

The vaccine list that is.

“So it was like oh well maybe there is a way I’m going to get to sign up," Altman hoped.

She says the woman on the phone claimed the state wanted to send COVID-19 test kits to every senior in Florida. Before the scammer could ask for Altman’s info, she stopped them.

“I went no you don’t," Altman said. 

Here is what the Better Business Bureau says the scams may look like:

  1. You receive a phone call, social media message or email saying you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. 
  2. After accepting, the message will likely require you to provide personal information or pay upfront. The BBB says do neither.

“It just made me angry because some senior citizen is going to fall for this and they’re going to rob them," Altman said. "Because we all want to get back to our lives.”

Altman is missing her grandchildren who she hasn’t seen in a year. She hasn’t even been to a restaurant to sit in a year. She says this type of scam is a new low. 

“The idea that they’re playing on people’s fears is so much worse than ‘do you want to win money’," she said.

With all the chaos surrounding vaccine appointments, the BBB is warning people about these scams. They say first know that you cannot buy the vaccines online or in stores. If someone is trying to sell you one, it is a scam. 

Never pay for a spot in line or on a list to get the vaccine. 

Ignore someone telling you to act now. Scammers will make things sound urgent in order to get you to give out information without thinking.

You can report scams to FraudFreeFlorida.com.