Scammers target public with fake vaccine messages in Turkey

A seemingly innocuous text message, purportedly sent by the Health Ministry, may spell trouble for unsuspecting citizens, experts warned. As Turkey ramped up vaccination efforts against the coronavirus, scammers found a new way to profit. Text messages urging users to click on a link to receive their vaccine appointment often contain malicious links aiming to access personal information.

The Health Ministry had recently issued an alert against fake messages containing links. People eligible for the vaccine can check whether it is their turn for an appointment-only vaccination through official apps and websites of the ministry.

Assistant professor Ipek Ada Alver, a microbiology expert from Altınbaş University, said the Health Ministry openly shared information about its vaccination calendar and appointments on its official website, and people should not believe messages sent by scammers. Citizens can also make an appointment through a hotline, she added. “Scammers either send messages urging people to click links for appointments or promise ‘prioritizing’ them in vaccination. Along with text messages, they reach out to people via email, WhatsApp or Telegram apps. When you click on the malicious links they send, they are able to obtain your personal information over the phone or computer,” she warned.

She also pointed out “a scamming pandemic” running parallel with the outbreak in the world. “There are illegal websites selling what they claimed is a ‘vaccine pass’ or those selling COVID-19 tests via home delivery. Fake vaccines also proliferated. In China, for instance, dozens of people were detained for attempting to sell thousands of doses of vaccines. Elsewhere, scammers sell saltwater solutions as ‘vaccines,’” she said.

“Do not trust people who send you messages about the vaccine and do not open your door for people claiming they will vaccinate you even if you do not have an appointment,” she warned.