Cash for vaccines: conmen target care homes

Police have received over a hundred complaints from homes and OAPs

Over a hundred attempts at fraud have caused alarm amongst the elderly, as fraudsters seek to take advantage of the arrival of the covid vaccine. Minister of Home Affairs Miquel Sàmper explained this Thursday that the Catalan Police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, have detected that there are individuals who, posing as health authorities or producers of the vaccine, are calling the old people's homes and threatening the workers so that they make an urgent cash transfer in exchange for the doses. Although the Pfizer vaccine cannot be marketed privately, is free and can only be distributed by the Health Department, the Sàmper warned that this behaviour is not an isolated incident and has called on the population not to fall into the trap.

According to Sàmper, there could be a criminal organisation behind it and the modus  operandi is always the same: the swindlers call the care home from an international telephone number, often in the early hours of the morning when the director is not there, and warn the workers that there is a delivery of doses pending. They deliberately make the staff believe that a large amount of money has to be paid to guarantee arrival at the centres and, in order to gain credibility, they provide information about the centre as well as the management. In most cases they do not ask for more than 400 euros and require a bank transfer.

At this point, the scam has prospered in a center in Esplugues de Llobregat that has paid 400 euros as a token of the 3,000 euros that had been required of them. "They were told that they were calling from the Ministry of Health and that they had an urgent delivery of the vaccine and that they had to pay the remittance if they did not want to be sanctioned," Sàmper said. In the middle of the press conference, Sàmper informed that he had just been notified of another attempt to perpetrate a similar scam in a care home in the Horta-Guinardó district of Barcelona.

Call 112

The sub-inspector of Citizen Security, Sergi Martínez, has pointed out that fraudsters can accumulate "a lot of capital" if they call many victims. Martínez warned that there have also been attempts to scam senior citizens directly, who they call on the home phone to offer them the vaccine or to arrange a visit to inject them and ask for money. Chief Commissioner Juan Carlos Molinero explained that for now all forms of fraud use telephones, but he does not rule out that new types may appear.

"They take advantage of the fact that they are vulnerable and live alone to try to gain access to their homes, swindle them or commit robbery or theft with violence," said Martínez, who asked that no bank or personal information be given out and no payment made in the event of such a call. In the case of care homes, it is recommended that workers make the facts known to the centre's management and immediately call 112 or contact the Mossos or local police.

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