California officials are warning the public about scams related to the state’s $116.5 million COVID-19 vaccine incentive lottery.
The first 15 winners of the lottery, each getting $50,000, were announced last week in a game-show-like news conference with Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Balls with different numbers were randomly selected, each representing a vaccinated Californian. Officials only disclosed the winner’s county of residence, but not their name to protect their privacy. They said the California Department of Public Health will reach out to the winners.
By Monday, the state’s health department was already warning that members of the public had gotten calls, emails, texts and social media messages from scammers impersonating state officials.
State officials said the winners, who include three people from Los Angeles County and one from Orange County, will be notified by CDPH through an official “State of CA CDPH” caller and text ID, a CDPH email address, or in person by CDPH staff.
The winners will not be asked to provide their bank information or be asked to pay any fees to verify their eligibility for the cash prize, officials said.
CDPH will email the winners an official state government form, and then a check will be mailed to the winner by the state Controller’s Office.
“The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is asking Californians to be aware of and to quickly report any indications of possible fraudulent or other questionable activities by individuals attempting to take advantage of the state’s recently announced COVID-19 vaccination incentive programs,” the agency said in a news release.
Anyone who gets a scam message to do with the vaccine incentive program is asked to email email@example.com or call the “Vax for the Win” incentives hotline at 1-833-993-3873.
The lottery was set up to motivate residents to get vaccinated before the state’s June 15 reopening. Any California resident age 12 and older who got at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot is automatically entered to win the cash prizes — regardless of their immigration status.
The next batch of 15 winners to get $50,000 will be announced Friday.
On June 15 — the day the state expects to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions — 10 vaccinated Californians will be awarded $1.5 million each.
If the state can’t reach the winner for 96 hours after the first try, or if a winner declines the money, the prize will go to someone else, according to state officials.