In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.
I saw this on the BBC site yesterday, and I wanted to highlight it first to show that these things exist, and second, that people do actually get taken in by them.
I almost didn’t get my second jab in time. The recommended interval for the AZ vaccine is 11 weeks. I got mine at ten-and-a-bit weeks, and it was really only that my wife was offered hers, and we tried successfully to piggy-back onto that. It showed me that we sometimes need to be a little pro-active in sorting ourselves out.
But the system is not supposed to work that way. You’re supposed to be on a national database, when your time comes you are called for your first jab, then 11 weeks later for your second. We shouldn’t have to be pro-active at all.
My story this week features a woman up in Yorkshire. She’s retired, but does voluntary work, ferrying vulnerable people to hospital appointments and the like.
She thought maybe this had been taken into account when she was sent an email offering her a vaccine shot. I have no idea if the NHS send out emails or not, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility. Certainly for COVID, many of these vaccines have been offered at short notice. So, maybe.
The contents of the email were also imperative. “Confirm in the next twelve hours or you’ll lose your spot”. Okay, now that sounds fishy straight away. If you want to contact somebody urgently, email is the last thing you’d use. People often pick up their email once a day or less, so if you want something done within twelve hours, forget it.
But at the same time, they’re not wanting to waste any vaccines so presumably they want every clinic to be rammed full of patients, so just… maybe? At the very least, a seed of doubt has been sown.
The email told her to click the link to confirm, so she followed it. Sure, she should have looked exactly where that link was taking her, but visually, the message appeared bona fide, and she was desperate for her vaccine.
The site asked for various personal details. Again, not unreasonable. They’d want to confirm who you are, wouldn’t they?
Next, it asked for a credit card. To cover against any costs incurred. Okay, at this point, I’m thinking “reg flag”. The NHS is free at the point of contact (for UK citizens). We pay handsomely for it in our taxes, but at the point of contact, it is free. But actually, in other healthcare systems, maybe that’s not so unreasonable? Presumably, this type of email was not just sent to British people?
Fortunately, this woman saw red, too, and at that point she walked away. So, in the end, a bit of a non-story.
And, you guessed it, the email is now known to have been a scam. But you can imagine, people were sitting scared at home, desperate to be vaccinated… and ripe to fall for such a scam. Our health minister got into hot water the other week for using the word “cowering”, but I think the guy was about right.
The last part of this story was the most interesting. For the six months to June (i.e. the period of the vaccinations), 1,168 people have reported falling victim to vaccine-related scams. A total cost to the victims of £400,000. And those are only the reported cases. It’s not a massive amount in this day and age, but when you think how desperate people must have been to fall for scams such as this, isn’t it sickening?