Riverside County clinics do not require payment for COVID-19 shots or appointments
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — Seniors and their caregivers should never give out financial information to callers, websites or emailers who insist the data is required to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination, Riverside County officials advised this week.
“Riverside County does not ask residents to pay for vaccinations or vaccination appointments,” said Jewel Lee, director of Office on Aging. “Scammers are preying on seniors and at-risk adults who are seeking services during the pandemic recovery.”
One-fifth of Riverside County’s 2.5 million residents are age 60 or older. They are frequent targets for fraudsters and phishing scams because they own assets, said Michaela Williams, who works in the county’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) as an advocate for financial fraud victims.
“The death or incapacity of a spouse, health challenges, diminished mental capacity, and social isolation also increase susceptibility to fraud and exploitation,” Williams added, urging anyone who thinks they’ve been the target of a scam to report it to the 24-hour Adult Protective Services (APS) hotline at (800) 491-7123.
Since the pandemic broke out more than a year ago, the Federal Trade Commission reports fraudsters have duped consumers nationwide out of hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19 related scams. APS receives an average of 300 reports per month of suspected financial fraud against older and dependent adults.
In Riverside County, one scam involves a caller asking the person to pay or provide financial information to schedule or reschedule an appointment. Another uses a phone number that appears to be a Riverside County line.
The Federal Trade Commission advises that a vaccine distribution site or health insurance company will not call, text, or email asking for your credit card or bank account number to sign up to receive the vaccine.
Customers who on their own contact the Department of Public Health to book a vaccination appointment at a county-run clinic will be asked to provide basic personal information, and may be asked for their Social Security number.
Customers can turn to trusted sources such as the county Public Health department or call centers at 2-1-1 and Office on Aging. Those sources may require basic personal information to register for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Safeguarding our customers’ information to protect them is a priority,” said Todd Bellanca, assistant director of DPSS Adult Services. “All consumers should know who’s on the other end of a phone call or email before providing any information.”
To help prevent older and dependent adults from becoming victims of scams, Adult Services encourages community members to stay engaged with aging family members, neighbors and friends, and to reach out to seniors in isolation.
The public can also find tips from the FTC on how to avoid a vaccine-related scam by clicking here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2021/04/covid-vaccines-are-free?utm_source=govdelivery
DPSS has been serving Riverside County since 1923 when it began with its first two workers. Today, the department is more than 4,000 employees strong, serving one million residents last year in the nation’s tenth most populous county.