EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Inspector General are alerting the public about fraud schemes that are related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the HHS, scammers are using telemarketing calls, text messages, social media accounts, and even door-to-door visits to target the public, and as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, they're doing so in more ways than one.

"Criminals are motivated by crises," said Stan Prager, the owner of East Longmeadow's Gogeeks Computer Rescue.

It's not easy getting a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, and now scammers are taking advantage of the public's frustrations.

"They're exploiting that in two ways. One is through typical criminal extortion trying to get you to pay for something you shouldn't pay for, and the second is identity theft," he explained.

Prager told Western Mass News they're creating fake websites to look like vaccine distributors and told people they can pay for a spot to get the vaccine.

"They do a pretty good job of mimicking these and dressing them up," he added.

The scams can be easy to fall for.

"These links are dangerous," he said.

These links could steal your information, or even your money, to downloading malware on your devices.

"People are desperate now trying to get online, and there are not enough vaccines. This is offering you a shortcut, and people fall for it," he said.

Once you've gotten the vaccine, you want to be careful posting your vaccination card on social media.

"You want to avoid any opportunities for identity theft," he added.

Your vaccine card shares your name and the location you got your shot, which Prager said sophisticated criminals could take advantage of if posted online.

"Make a copy and black that out with a magic marker. Take out your stuff that can be traced," he explained.

The only websites to trust are local, state, and federal-run sites.

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Copyright 2021 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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