COLORADO SPRINGS — Viewers have alerted News5 to phone calls going out to them asking for information about their vaccination status and even the vaccination status of their children. News5 looked into if these calls are legit and some things fraud experts say you'll want to keep in mind if you get the call.
With all of the fraud and imposter scams tied to the pandemic and even vaccination cards, it's easy to understand why people are uneasy about getting cold calls asking them for vaccination details.
Back in July News5 spoke with Susan Egnor in Pueblo who got one of these vaccination cold calls from someone claiming to be from the State of Colorado.
"It was a young man and he asked me if I had gotten my COVID shot. I kind of took offense," said Egnor. "Well, is that anybody's business, but mine and my doctor's?"
It turns out the call was real and the state was calling and texting people to help educate them on vaccinations in the hopes of convincing people to make appointments to get the shot.
"The state already has that information. It's already tracked. They shouldn't be calling," Egnor told News5.
Now, almost three months later, News5 has learned about similar cold calls, but this time being made by contracted researchers with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago on behalf of the CDC.
"The CDC has received so many inquiries if these calls are legitimate that they actually posted on their website that they are making legitimate calls," said CSU Global's "Dr. Fraud" J. Michael Skiba.
Here's what federal officials posted about these calls:
Q: Why are you calling me?
A: You were randomly chosen to participate in the survey. The main purpose of the NIS-Child, NIS-Teen, and NIS-Flu is to find out if recommended vaccinations are given to children and teens across the country. The main purpose of the NIS-ACM is to find out if adults are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. The main purpose of the NIS-CCM is to find out if children and teens are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations when they become available to each age group.
Q: Why should I take part in the survey?
A: We need your help to monitor vaccinations given to children and teens, as well as to monitor COVID-19 vaccinations in adults and age-eligible children and teens. You were randomly chosen to participate in the survey. We call each number to identify parents and guardians of children and teens for our surveys about childhood vaccination as well as identify adults for our survey about COVID-19 vaccination .
You will represent thousands of other households who are not in the sample. We cannot talk to the millions of parents and adults in this country — that would cost too much and take too long. So, we scientifically select a "sample" of phone numbers to identify eligible households. Your household is unique and cannot be replaced with another. When selected households respond to the survey, the results are more accurate.
"As far as participating in these cold calls the CDC they really do need this information. They are using it for research and allocating resources to help fight the pandemic," said Skiba.
But fraud experts fear, once again, this kind of public outreach is setting people up for scams.
"What they also did is they posted the number that those calls are going to be coming from. Now, unfortunately scammers can grab that number and spoof it and make it look like that's the number that's showing up on your phone," said Skiba.
Even if it's a legitimate agency or organization on the other end of the phone experts say we should always think about how confident we are in their ability to maintain and protect our sensitive information, that in the wrong hands could be used against us.
"Considering that there's an average of 1,500 to 2,000 major data breaches a year. We've seen that increase 10% since last year. Trying to limit the information that you have going out into the world is definitely a good practice from a fraud perspective," said Skiba.
How do you get these calls to stop?
Here is what the officials say:
"While we hope you are able to help us with this important health project, we understand if you are unable to do so at this time.
If you receive another call from 312-871-4241, 312-871-4242, 312-871-4243 please answer and say "Take me off your list." The interviewer will remove your number from our calling list.
If you do not want to wait for a call, please call NORC toll-free at 1-877-220-4805. Someone is usually available to answer the phone from 9AM to 9PM in your time zone. If possible, please call from the same phone line that received the call from 312-871-4241, 312-871-4242, or 312-871-4243. This helps us more quickly direct your call to someone who can help you. If you leave a message, we try to respond to all calls received between 9AM and 9PM within one to two hours.
If you prefer to use a TTY, please call the AT&T Relay Service at 1-800-855-2880 and request that NORC be called at 1-877-220-4805."
For more information about these calls and how the information will be used you can visit the official website: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/nis/index.html
For a list of frequently asked questions and answers from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/nis/participant/faqs.html#calling-me