As COVID-19 lingers, scammers continue to prey on people’s hopes and fears in attempts to steal insurance information, money, or both.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued warning letters to firms selling bogus COVID-19 products that falsely claim to “prevent, treat, mitigate, diagnose or cure” the virus.
Many of the scammers peddling phony products ask for personal information, such as Social Security numbers, Medicare, or private health insurance information, which can result in identity theft and be used in future scams.
With the COVID-19 vaccine now readily available, the FBI has issued a public advisory warning people not to buy, sell, or print fake vaccination cards, or fill in false information on blank vaccination record cards. Doing so can result in criminal charges.
Consumers should also be on guard for scam calls from fake pharmacies offering "pre-approved" medications or supplies to consumers. The scam caller claims the costs are covered by insurance, but says additional information is required to process the shipment. In addition to asking for insurance details, they may request the contact information for your primary care physician. They then use the ill-gotten information to charge your insurance provider for unnecessary medications or medical equipment supplies that you never receive.
According to a spokesperson from the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, “the pandemic brought on new methods of committing insurance fraud and rapidly increased other known types of cons and scams.” The coalition cited scam callers who claim to represent legitimate insurance companies, but are instead selling bogus policies and falsely claiming to offer “riders” or “endorsements” to protect consumers in case they needed to be hospitalized or put on a respirator.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your insurance company, hang up and call the number on the back of your medical insurance or prescription card to confirm whether the call is legitimate.
Tips to Avoid Being Scammed
The FCC offers the following tips to help you protect yourself from robocall and text scams, including coronavirus scams:
- Always be wary of any unsolicited offers that require you to provide your insurance or doctor’s information.
- Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
- Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
- Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
- Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering.
- Do not click any links in a text message from an unknown sender.
- For more information, visit fcc.gov/covid-scams.
Notify the Authorities
If you believe you have been the victim of a COVID-19 scam, immediately report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721. You can also file a complaint with the Department of Justice, or contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. COVID medical scams can also be reported to the Food and Drug Administration.
If you suspect you have been the victim of COVID-19 health care fraud, immediately report it to Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).
File coronavirus scam complaints online with the Federal Trade Commission.