Online Shopping, COVID-19 Vaccine Scams
December 17, 2020


Dear Colleagues,

Unfortunately, the holiday season and the ongoing pandemic present additional opportunities for cybercriminals. With that in mind, ITS would like to remind everyone to stay safe at home and on the internet.

Online Holiday Shopping Scams

Since January 1, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported consumer losses of $16.26 million due to online shopping fraud. Now that the holiday season is upon us, cybersecurity agencies are urging online shoppers to be especially vigilant. Consumers should be mindful of unsolicited emails asking for donations, sites spoofing reputable businesses, and sites or emails attempting to conduct unencrypted financial transactions.

Fortunately, there are a few basic things you can keep in mind when shopping online:

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is: Deeply discounted prices, in comparison to other competitors, are a major red flag. 
  • Pay with a credit card: Credit cards offer fraud protection while debit cards do not. Be sure to avoid using wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, and gift cards. 
  • Looks can be deceiving: Professional-looking websites are easy to make; so, just because a site looks nice, that doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. When in doubt, you can always check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
  • Red Flags:  Websites that are difficult to find information about, advertised on social media, are under 6 months old, have pictures and information copied from other established sites, and do not start with https:// are more likely to be fraudulent.

The national Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) encourages online holiday shoppers to review the following resources:

If you believe you are a victim of a scam, consider the following actions:

COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants the community to be wary of perpetrators claiming to have vaccine doses for sale and to be aware that state agencies rather than individuals will be responsible for vaccine distribution plans.

For that reason, the FTC has provided the following information to help people avoid vaccine-related scams:

  • You likely will not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine during this public health emergency.
  • You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
  • You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine.
  • No one from a vaccine distribution site or health care payer, like a private insurance company, will call you asking for your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account information to sign you up to get the vaccine.
  • Beware of providers offering other products, treatments, or medicines to prevent the virus. Check with your healthcare provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment.
  • If you get a call, text, email — or even someone knocking on your door — claiming they can get you early access to the vaccine, STOP. That’s a scam. Don’t pay for a promise of vaccine access or share personal information. Instead, report it to the FTC at or file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general through, the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Further resources:


If you have any questions regarding this advisory, please feel free to email the Office of Information Security.