Spread word about COVID-19 vaccine scam to protect family and friends - councils urge

Council trading standards teams are now receiving reports of scammers calling to offer an appointment to receive a vaccine at a cost or sending a text that directs the recipient to a convincing fake NHS website with a booking link.


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Councils are urging people to be vigilant against a new coronavirus-related scam which sees criminals calling or texting individuals and offering a COVID-19 vaccination at a cost.

In May 2020, the Local Government Association, which represents councils across England and Wales, warned that some councils had already recorded a 40 per cent increase in reported scams since the pandemic first began.

Council trading standards teams are now receiving reports of scammers calling to offer an appointment to receive a vaccine at a cost or sending a text that directs the recipient to a convincing fake NHS website with a booking link.

The LGA said the COVID-19 vaccine will always be free in the UK and delivered by the NHS. Patients will be sent a letter by the NHS call/recall service informing them of their eligibility, and receive a call from Primary Care Networks, offering the choice of booking at a GP-led vaccination centre or using the national booking service.

The LGA is urging people who are contacted to remember that any contact regarding a real NHS COVID-19 vaccination booking will never:

  1. Ask for payment or any bank details
  2. Ask you to press a button on your keypad when on the phone
  3. Ask you to send a text to confirm the booking

Anyone who has concerns about whether an approach is genuine should speak to their local GP surgery.

Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“With the UK scaling up its COVID-19 vaccinations across the country, ruthless and opportunistic scammers will be looking to take advantage of the rollout. Everyone must remain vigilant to these scams and tell family and friends what to look out for to help avoid them being scammed.

“The NHS will never charge for a coronavirus vaccine, so anyone claiming to offer you a booking over the phone or online who asks for payment or bank details is attempting to scam you.

“When you are contacted about your legitimate vaccine, you will be offered to book through your GP or the national booking service, and if you aren’t sure about the call’s validity, call your GP who will be able to confirm this to you.

“The rollout of the vaccine provides reason to be optimistic and it can be exciting to receive a text or call about it, but we must make sure we don’t get complacent when it comes to scams.”

Notes to editors

  1. If you think you may have handed over your card details to scammers, let your bank know what’s happened immediately. Which? have a useful guide to recover money lost to a scam. How to get your money back after a scam
  2. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority have a useful document to help you spot a fraudulent text message. COVID-19 SMS/Text message scams
  3. More than a third (36 per cent) of UK adults had been confronted with a scam during the first lockdown in 2020, according to a survey by Citizens Advice. One in three Brits targeted by a scammer so far during lockdown.
  4. The COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination. The vaccine is being delivered using a priority group system which is available on the gov.uk website. COVID-19 vaccination first phase priority groups.
  5. Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards reported a rise in the number of scam complaints related to the coronavirus outbreak in May 2020, with the total number of scam complaints increasing by 40 per cent since the beginning of March 2020. They include reports of a woman in her 80s who answered the door to a man who tried to demand £220 in cash to complete a health and safety check. There have also been widespread complaints of scammers trying to take people’s bank details to cover payments for school meals while schools are closed.