Coronavirus mass-vaccination centres are now open in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, allowing the Scottish Government to start rolling out its inoculation programme to those in the 70 to 79 age group.
There have been numerous reports on social media of people being sent fake booking emails or texts, which state that users’ banking or personal details are required in order to secure an appointment.
Ferret Fact Service looked at the various scams that have been reported and what people can do to avoid them.
How are vaccination appointments being scheduled?
NHS Inform, Scotland’s national health information service, says everyone that is currently eligible to be vaccinated will be contacted by NHS Scotland either by letter or phone to receive their appointment. No emails or text messages are being sent as part of the booking process.
The Scottish Government says letters will arrive either in a white envelope with the NHS Scotland logo printed in black on the outside or in “distinctive coloured blue envelopes”. The government had planned to use blue envelopes for all letters to those in the 70 to 79 age group, but was forced to use white ones initially after encountering a problem with supplies.
Appointments that can be kept do not need to be confirmed, but people must cancel or reschedule any appointment they cannot make.
While the initial booking system is centralised, individual health boards have their own systems in place for rescheduling. Some boards, including NHS Fife and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, have an online rebooking system, which users have to register for. The registration form can be found here.
Details of each health board’s rebooking process can be found on NHS Inform’s website here.
What do the scam emails look like and how can you be sure what you have been sent is a fake?
Various versions of scams have been reported, but they all take a similar format.
UK fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre Action Fraud tweeted two email versions that both claim the person being contacted has been “selected” to receive a vaccination and asking them to click on a link to accept.
NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services says that in some instances those clicking on these links have been asked to provide personal details and in some cases they have been asked to provide bank details.
In other cases, people have been sent a text message saying they are “eligible” for a vaccination and advising them to click on a link that leads to a website that asks for personal information.
Consumer rights organisation Which? details the numerous ways people can detect whether emails or linked websites are fake, including being alert for unusual sender details or domain names. However, the key thing to consider is that no Scottish health board will text or email you to arrange your vaccination, so if that is the way you have been contacted you will know it is part of a scam.
How can you avoid falling victim to a scam?
Do not respond to texts or emails purporting to be from the NHS and never hand over your bank details.
Action Fraud has issued advice on how people can protect themselves against vaccine fraud, stressing that the most important point is that the NHS is providing the vaccine to everyone free of charge.
On its website, Action Fraud says to remember four key points to avoid becoming a victim of a vaccine scam:
- The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
- The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
- The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
- The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
What if you have already been contacted by or provided details to one of these websites?
The Office of the Chief Executive of NHS Scotland has stressed that the health service will only contact people by phone or letter to arrange their vaccine appointment. In a tweet, it said any emails inviting users to put bank details into a website should be ignored.
Scams should also be reported, though. NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services says anyone who has received a scam text or email should report it to the Crimestoppers Covid Fraud Hotline.
Anyone who has provided bank details, either in person or online, to anyone claiming to be a representative of the NHS should call Police Scotland on 101. Chief Inspector Anton Stephenson of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Division says the force will “pursue anyone who sets out to cause harm and misery to our communities”.
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Photo thanks to iStock/Oleg Elkov.