British Columbia

Scammers calling to book fake vaccine appointments, B.C. police warn

Police in West Vancouver, B.C., say its officers have received multiple reports of fraudsters calling someone by phone and telling them they're next in line for a vaccine.

Fraudsters ask for personal information to set up fake appointment

Fraudsters are calling people to tell them they're next in line for a vaccine, and then asking them for personal information like their address and credit card details. (CBC)

Police in B.C. are again warning the public about scams related to COVID-19 vaccines.

On Thursday, police in West Vancouver said its officers have seen multiple reports of fraudsters calling someone by phone and telling them they're next in line for a vaccine. The fraudster asks the person to provide some personal information, like their address and credit card details, to set up a "home visit" so they can get their shot.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talked about vaccine phone scammers. 

"We've also heard sadly that some people are trying to take advantage of older people," she said.

"We want to remind people that we will never ask for credit card information or any payment and if someone does ask for this type of information they are not from the health authority and you need to hang up.

Jo Currie, 78, made a vaccine appointment for her 90-year-old husband in Nanaimo on Monday. On Wednesday she received a voice message from a 1-844 number, from a woman named Natalia who said she was calling from Island Health to book an appointment.

Currie, concerned that something had gone wrong with her appointment, phoned the number back, only to find it didn't ring. She then phoned Nanaimo RCMP to report the call.

"The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was probably a scam," she said.

"I got mad. If it was a scam, it's a very unfair kind of scam for seniors."

CBC was able to confirm with Island Health that the call Currie reported as a potential scam was, in fact, a legitimate call from the health authority.

What may have made it suspicious is that when people call the number back, there is a several second delay in the system before Island Health answers with a recorded message. Additionally, the phone number does not come up as connected to Island Health when Googled.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has also received reports of more than a dozen scams and frauds linked to COVID-19 vaccines. The centre has stressed that the only way to access real vaccines is through clinics organized by your local public health authority.

Immunize B.C. has also issued warnings about buying fake vaccines online.

B.C. is currently in the second phase of its vaccine rollout plan, which is focused on protecting seniors.

In most cases, those who are eligible for a vaccine have to call their local health authority to book an appointment — not the other way around.

However, Vancouver Coastal Health says that with so many seniors in need of a vaccine, it is staggering its approach to vaccination and does reach out directly to certain population groups, including homebound seniors who receive VCH home health services.

Anyone who believes they've been a victim of fraud is asked to call police.

Corrections

  • This story has been updated to clarify that Island Health is calling to confirm some vaccine appointments.
    Mar 17, 2021 11:44 AM PT

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now