Health News

UK scammers tricking victims into paying for fake COVID vaccines

FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled "COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" are placed on dry ice in this illustration taken, December 5, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) - Scammers have been defrauding people by falsely offering them COVID vaccines in return for payment, with some victims receiving unidentified jabs, the Welsh health minister said on Monday, echoing warnings from police in other parts of Britain.

A mass vaccination programme is being run across the United Kingdom by the state-owned National Health Service (NHS), which provides all care including vaccines free of charge.

“There are a number of scams involving COVID, including a particularly nasty one in which people have been tricked into paying for a COVID vaccine and then jabbed in the arm,” said Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health in Wales, at a briefing.

“I want to be clear, our NHS will never ask anyone to pay for a COVID vaccine. These are free. The NHS will never ask for your bank details and vaccines are not being delivered to your front door by people who have not been identified as NHS staff.”

The minister’s warning came after the National Crime Agency (NCA) last week urged the public to be vigilant, reporting that scammers were asking elderly and vulnerable people for payment in return for access to vaccines that were fake or non-existent.

“The current level of reported fraud in relation to the vaccine remains very low but is increasing,” said Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA.

The City of London police reported on Friday that a scammer had obtained 160 pounds from a 92-year-old woman and had jabbed her in the arm with what she described as a “dart-like implement” after he turned up unannounced at her home.

Britain is in the grip of a devastating surge in infections which has pushed the total UK COVID-19 death toll above 81,000 and led to the imposition of national lockdowns in England and Scotland and tight restrictions in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by William James