TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – As the nation looks to the new vaccines as a way back to normalcy, AARP Florida is supporting House Bill 9, which is aimed at stopping COVID-19 vaccine fraud. The Federal Trade Commission warns that scammers and identity thieves are using the vaccine as a new way to gain monetary profits or personal information.
AARP FL State Director Jeff Johnson said, “…Many view the vaccine as the key to relief. Florida ranks second in the nation for fraud, and House Bill 9 is a step in the right direction, allowing our state to take swift action to stop and prosecute scammers looking to take advantage of others during a pandemic.”
How are Scammers Targeting Consumers?
In a recent phone interview, AARP Associate State Director for Advocacy Zayne Smith said they are using every trick in the book, including:
- Text messages
- Snail mail
- Fake websites
- Social media
- Marketing materials directing you to a fake website or phone number
In some cases, the scammers are seeking payment for getting on a vaccine registry or jumping to the front of the line; while in others, they are asking for personal information.
Why House Bill 9?
Current law covers some fraud, but not all, and there are no specific vaccine-related laws. House Bill 9 would change that. The bill partially reads: “protecting consumers against fraud during a pandemic; creating s. 817.504, F.S.; prohibiting dissemination of false or misleading vaccine information in certain circumstances with specified intent; providing criminal penalties; authorizing a state attorney or the statewide prosecutor to prosecute a violation; authorizing the Attorney General to seek civil remedies.”
These actions would now become a third-degree felony for the first offense, and the Attorney General would have the ability to immediately shut down these operations through an injunction or other civil means.
Where is the bill now?
State Representative Ardian Zika introduced the bill on January 7, 2021. It was presented to the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee and later passed that committee by a vote of 16 to 0 with two missed votes on January 14. The bill was also referred to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee on the January 17.
The bill now is being reviewed by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee. Once approved, it will move on to the Judiciary Committee.
Who is adrian zika?
State Reprentative Zika was born in Yugoslavia and moved to Florida in 2005. He is a business owner and Land O’ Lakes, Florida resident received an MBA from St. Leo University in 2012. He was elected to the State House of Representatives in 2018 and has since been reelected. Zika is a member of the following committees:
- Joint Legislative Auditing Committee Alternating Chair
- Ways & Means Committee Vice Chair
- Government Operations Subcommittee
- Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee
- Insurance & Banking Subcommittee
- Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee
- State Affairs Committee
To learn more about how to avoid these scams, click here.
Lynn DeJarnette is a Florida National News lifestyle reporter. | firstname.lastname@example.org