Amid the continued surge of COVID-19 infections, state and local officials are warning New Hampshire residents to be wary of scams seeking personal information through fraudulent websites that purport to be official government agencies or reputable coronavirus vaccine and testing resources.

The NH Attorney General’s Office has urged caution over one such COVID-19 related scheme in which residents receive text messages from scammers impersonating the state health department.

The messages contain a link that prompts the receiver to a fraudulent website titled, “New Hampshire State Covid-19 Vaccination Status Validation,” Attorney General John M. Formella said in a news release last week.

The website directs residents to upload images of their driver’s license and enter personal information including their Social Security number and date of birth. The website incorporates the seals of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services and the Division of Motor Vehicles in an attempt to make the scam more believable, Formella said.

People should not click on links in a text message or reply to an unsolicited message from an unknown number, the attorney general said. Any text message, phone call or email that claims you have won a prize or are entitled to money should be considered a scam, according to the news release.

Tricia Zahn, director of the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network said state and local agencies would never send unsolicited text messages to confirm vaccination status or ask for payment for a vaccine, vaccine card or test results. COVID-19 vaccines are free, and tests are covered by insurance or eligible for government reimbursement in New Hampshire.

“People should be on alert for scams and shouldn’t respond to them; just delete them and hang up if necessary,” Zahn said in an interview Monday. “We would encourage folks to continue to seek out trusted sources like the Cheshire Medical Center website and covid19.nh.gov.”

Residents should trust their gut if they receive a message or phone call that seems suspicious and should never provide personal information or make a payment for vaccination or testing services to an unknown person or organization online or by phone, Zahn said.

She noted that the text message scam impersonating the state health department is not the first scheme that has attempted to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to trick people into revealing private information or making payments to fraudulent organizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned of scammers impersonating the agency and asking for donations. The CDC will never request donations from the general public, according to its website.

The Federal Communications Commission website includes tips on how to avoid phone, email and text scams that aim to exploit health and financial concerns about the pandemic. These scams include advertisements for false cures, bogus tests and schemes designed to solicit money or insurance information. Among other suggestions, the FCC advises people should never provide payment information to an advertisement for vaccines and should not click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages.

Zahn said that www.cheshiremed.org and www.covid19.nh.gov provide resources for residents to book COVID-19 testing appointments at sites that have been vetted by the state.

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Ryan Spencer can be reached at 603-352-1234, ext. 1403, or rspencer@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @rspencer096

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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