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Desperate vaccine seekers turning to third-party websites, but are they safe?

Some providers may ask you directly for your social security number but the BBB cautions you about offering it up to third-party websites.

CROMWELL, Conn. — When it comes to the COVID vaccine, demand is still outpacing the supply. It's forcing people to turn to strangers for help booking an appointment.

FOX61 called three different vaccine appointment booking lines. "No new vaccination appointments are available at this time," read a recording from UConn Health. "We are currently processing calls from Monday morning," read another message from Waterbury Hospital. The city of Waterbury's health department line said, "We will contact those who are on the waiting list and then open the phone lines to take more calls."

"You are going to find that no matter what appointment line you call," remarked Waterbury Emergency Management Director Adam Rinko. "I think there’s this perception that there’s vaccine sitting of a shelf somewhere." Rinko said that couldn't be further from the truth and told FOX61 he knows it can be frustrating. "It’s what’s being reported everywhere. It’s a supply chain issue."

Which is why more third-party website like YourCOVIDshot.com are popping up with a promise to book the appointment for you. "We want to help as many people as possible to get their vaccines," said Mary Bolouri, of Ohio, the co-founder of yourCOVIDshot.com. 

But are they safe? "Scammers take advantage of every situation possible. So, there is a great chance that there are fraudulent sites out there," explained Luke Frey of Connecticut's Better Business Bureau.

Mary Bolouri says she has genuine intentions. She says her grandmother, Ludmilla Klek, died of COVID in a nursing home just a week before the vaccine became available. Mary says she channeled her grief into making sure others could get their shot. "Right now, it’s myself, my husband and some of his staff that we are paying to keep things going and yes, just refresh, refresh, refresh."

The website offers to navigate the often-confusing vaccine booking system for you. Mary says they’ll only ask you for information the provider requests. "I would say the most intrusive information that an authorized provider asks for that I’ve seen so far is CVS and they ask for a Medicare number and your prescription information...If you don’t have insurance, then they ask for your state I.D. number like a driver's license."

But the Better Business Bureau cautioned, "Even though a lot of them may have great intentions of helping you try to get your vaccine you do have to know in the back of your mind that you are handing over all of your personal info to a third party." Frey told FOX61 there are a few tell-tale signs a website may be fraudulent. "You shouldn’t have to give your social security number in order to get a vaccine. You also don’t have to give your health insurance info either. It’s not required in order to get a vaccine." Frey says you also should never have to pay anything.

Some providers may ask you directly for your social security number but the BBB cautions you about offering it up to third-party websites.

YourCOVIDShot.com does not ask for social security and told us if you don’t feel comfortable giving them personal information, they can also direct you to state resources or simply send you an email for you to book your own appointment when they see that one becomes available.