In the early morning hours of Jan. 6, 2021, New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who represents the city’s 7th District, posted a warning about a scam attempting to hook people with a promise of early access to a COVID-19 vaccine:
* fraud alert *
This text message is circulating in NYC, seeking to fool people into taking a call from a "contact tracer" asking that you "pre-register" for a vaccine.
NYC's actual contact tracers will call you from a # beginning with 212-540-XXXX or 212-242-XXXX.
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) January 6, 2021
Levine’s warning echoed one issued in late December 2020 by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who also warned about potential scams offering things like early access to COVID-19 vaccines:
The Office of Attorney General (OAG) continues to warn New Yorkers of anyone who calls, e-mails, or texts individuals offering access to a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, some individuals may seek to use online platforms with similar schemes. Scammers may impersonate public health officials from organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). They may also offer to ship a COVID-19 vaccine directly to homes, provide special access to vaccines or clinical trials, or sell special cold storage device for vaccines.
The Attorney General’s Office noted that New York, like other states, is prioritizing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for people with a high risk from the virus, and that means, “nursing home residents, nursing home staff who regularly interact with patients, and high-risk medical workers.” The vaccine will not be available to the general public for “several more months.”
A New York State Department of Health spokesperson told Snopes the department is aware of scammers pretending to work for the agency and also sent us the following information:
If you get a call from “NYS Contact Tracing” (518-387-9993), PLEASE answer the phone. Answering the phone will keep your loved ones and community safe.
A contact tracer will:
NEVER ask for your Social Security number
NEVER ask for any private financial information
NEVER ask for credit card information
NEVER send you a link without proper authentication procedures
The state Attorney General’s Office said that residents should report scam incidents:
The OAG continues to surveil and monitor the state for potential scams designed to exploit public concern related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. If a consumer believes they have been the victim of an unlawful activity, they can report these incidents to the OAG.