Medical personnel preparing an injection.

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A number of viable coronavirus vaccine candidates could soon receive FDA emergency use authorization. After roughly nine months of living in lockdown, this may offer some light at the end of a very dark tunnel. 

However, once a vaccine is approved, there will only be limited doses available in the near term -- most people won't be eligible right away. Healthcare workers and the elderly will likely be first in line and the general public may not get jabbed until April, May, or June. Still, there's reason to be hopeful as we navigate these troubling times. And in the coming months, you may receive communications about your opportunities to sign up to get vaccinated.

But how can you be sure if those notices are legit? Unfortunately, scammers may try to take advantage of desperate Americans at a time when vaccinating the public is so important. Here's how to spot a coronavirus vaccine scam -- and how to protect yourself accordingly. 

1. Never send money

You may receive text messages, phone calls, or email offers that claim to give you a chance to jump the line and get vaccinated earlier than expected. Don't fall for it. A legitimate provider will not make this option available. Nor will a real provider allow you to wire funds from your savings or checking account to secure your spot on the vaccine list. Anyone who requires you to put down a deposit is simply taking you for a ride. 

Incidentally, the coronavirus vaccine will be free for all Americans. You may, however, be charged a copay for your doctor to administer it. It pays to contact your health insurance company so you understand exactly what your financial responsibility will be.

2. Never give out identifying information

You may not be asked to pre-pay for a coronavirus vaccine, but instead, a scammer might ask you to verify personal details so you can get in the queue. Don't buy it. By giving out identifying information like your Social Security number, you open the door to a number of devastating consequences. A criminal could open a credit card in your name, or gain access to an existing account you hold. Don't give out any personal details unless you're in a doctor's office. 

3. Never agree to buy a vaccine you administer yourself

Once coronavirus vaccines become widely available, recipients will have the option to get them through their doctors or designated pharmacies. Your state health department will most likely provide a list of approved vaccine providers, so don't accept an offer to get vaccinated by a source you've never heard of. Along these lines, don't sign up to receive a vaccine you can reportedly administer to yourself -- that option has never been on the table. 

Don't become a victim

Many people are desperate to get vaccinated and buy themselves protection against COVID-19. Along these lines, many want the vaccine so life can start to get back to normal. But don't let that desperation cause you to let your guard down. The last thing you need is the stress of being taken advantage of financially. So steer clear of red-flag scenarios that indicate a scam could be on the horizon.