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Vaccine scams: don’t give personal or payment info over the phone

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Health experts and aging specialists are warning people some of the red flags of vaccine scammers, after reports of nefarious activity in the area.

On Thursday, University of Iowa Health Care reported someone was impersonating its staff and asking people for their social security numbers and payment info to set up vaccine appointments. A spokesperson says at least 10 people received the same call and that it is a blatant scam.

"Nobody should be paying out of pocket," Harrison March said, community engagement coordinator at the Heritage Agency on Aging in Cedar Rapids.

Heritage is one of six aging centers in Iowa who have seen an influx of calls this month from people wondering how to get a vaccine.

"The one we hear the most is, 'Where do I go?' 'What are my options?'" March said.

March says the main thing people should know is your vaccine should be free. The only exception would be paying a small copay if you get your vaccine through a clinic or pharmacy using health insurance. This payment should be around $20.

But even that $20 payment should only be done in-person, after your get your shot. No one should be paying a "processing" or "registration" fee just to get an appointment.

March says he's had a handful of people report scams to his organization but so far none have fallen for them. He says if you have any doubts about someone calling on behalf of a certain group or vaccine provider, hang up and get their number from their website and call back.

"They're going to understand that...whereas a scammer might be like, 'Well I've got you here, let me keep you on the phone,'" March said.

The State of Iowa debuted a new website Friday where people can find vaccine providers in their area. View the site here.

However, for an unknown reason, UI Health Care is not listed on the new site. A spokesperson for the state's largest hospital said she was confused by this Friday night and is also looking for answers. UIHC has vaccinated over 5,000 people this month.

KWWL has reached out to Governor Reynolds' office and the Iowa Department of Public Health for an explanation but is yet to hear back.

While there is no promise of when you might get an appointment, anyone over 65 can sign up for a vaccine through UIHC. Find out more here.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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