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MADISON – With COVID-19 vaccine research in the headlines, state and federal authorities urge residents to be wary of vaccine research participation scams.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to avoid becoming a victim of an imposter scam aimed at people who may be interested in participating in trials for COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more: Wisconsin prepares plan for COVID-19 vaccine program

  • Verify the research study. You should be able to find news stories online for legitimate trials on COVID-19 vaccines in your area by looking at local news sites. If you see an advertisement for a study, be sure to conduct an online search with the provided information and the terms “news,” “scam,” or “review” to check whether the study is legitimate. Never click on links in emails, messages, or pop-up advertisements. Instead, use a verified website for the study host to ensure that you do not provide information to a scammer. The free, searchable database maintained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can tell you which clinical studies are currently recruiting participants. Visit ClinicalTrials.Gov
  • Understand what personal information the study may need. Screening questions for volunteers will likely include your name, phone number, email, address, age, gender, race, ethnicity, and medical history. However, legitimate clinical trials should NOT ask for your Social Security number or financial account numbers.
  • Never pay to participate. Many legitimate vaccine studies may offer compensation for participation in the study. However, legitimate studies will not ask for payment or credit card information. If you are compensated for participation in a legitimate study, you can further protect your financial information by asking for your payment as a check rather than a direct deposit.

If you have been a victim of an imposter scam related to COVID-19 or otherwise, file a consumer complaint with DATCP. Consumers can file a complaint online at, by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128, or by emailing

For additional information and consumer protection resources, visit DATCP’s Consumer Protection Bureau at For information and updates on COVID-19 in Wisconsin, visit

Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...