Riverside County seniors were warned Tuesday to be on guard against a telephone and email scam in which victims are tricked into giving out their personal information while being “helped” in securing a coronavirus vaccination.
According to the Department of Public Social Services, the scam surfaced nationwide in the last year and recently targeted county residents 60 years old and older.
The perpetrators contact potential victims, either electronically or telephonically, advising them to furnish credit card, bank account and other personal information to secure an appointment for an immunization. Once the details are in the scam artists’ possession, they can use them to commit identity theft and other fraud.
“Riverside County does not ask residents to pay for vaccinations or vaccination appointments,” Office on Aging Director Jewel Lee said. “Scammers are preying on seniors and at-risk adults who are seeking services.”
The perpetrators are even using phone numbers similar to county business lines when they contact targets.
“The death or incapacity of a spouse, health challenges, diminished mental capacity and social isolation increase susceptibility to fraud and exploitation,” DPSS spokeswoman Michaela Williams said.
Officials said county-run health clinics will request health insurance information and may ask for a Social Security number to set up a vaccination appointment, but no personal financial details will be requested.
“Safeguarding our customers’ information to protect them is a priority,” said DPSS Adult Services Assistant Director Todd Bellanca. “All consumers should know who’s on the other end of a phone call or email before providing any information.”
Residents can make a vaccination appointment via the county’s 211 help line, and seniors specifically can contact the Office on Aging for assistance at 951-867-3800.
Anyone who suspects he or she has been targeted in a scam was encouraged to report it via the county’s 24-hour Adult Protective Services hotline at 800-491-7123.