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Bill To Create Penalty For Phony Coronavirus Vaccine Website Scam Passes First Stop

The Florida Legislature wants to stop scammers from taking advantage of people seeking vaccine doses. Fraudsters created fake internet pages designed to look like Pasco and Pinellas County Health Departments and charged money for fake vaccination appointments. And they aren’t the only ones. The Department of Legal Affairs Consumer and Protection Division has been contacted more than 14,000 to report COVID-19 related fraud. (R-Land O' Lakes) is the bill sponsor.

"Recently the federal, state, and local officials have warned Florida consumers to be careful of offers to get special access to the COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for money," said Zika. "They often use, these fraudsters, authentic-looking but fake websites to lure unsuspecting consumers into paying for vaccines or appointments that never materialize."

The first time a fraudster is caught disseminating false information they will face a third-degree felony. Continued attempts can lead to a second-degree felony. The legislation would also allow the attorney general to shut down websites or other media platforms that disseminate false information about a vaccine.

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Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.