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How to Keep Yourself Safe From COVID-19 Scams

During COVID-19, fraudsters and scammers will go to extreme lengths to obtain your personal and financial information. Medicare beneficiaries can take proactive steps to protect themselves so they don’t become a victim.

You’ve probably heard or read about someone who has fallen victim to a coronavirus vaccine scam or other type of fraud scheme during COVID-19 – or perhaps you, yourself, had this experience. You could click on a link in your email or provide some basic information over the phone, and suddenly you’ve lost hundreds of dollars or more.

Between January 1, 2021 and February 18, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission received nearly 360,000 reports of fraud with a median loss of $500 or more for people ages 70 and older.1 Although scams and fraud schemes have increased significantly overall during the coronavirus pandemic, the good news is that there are steps you can take to protect yourself. This articles discusses several common fraud schemes and what you can do to stay safe.

What are some common examples of COVID-19-related scams and fraud?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General recently alerted the public about a variety of COVID-19-related phone scams and phishing attacks.

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For example, you might get a phone call or text message from a spoofed number, a social media message or even an in-person visit from someone offering a COVID-19 test or cure in exchange for money or sensitive personal information such as your Medicare number or your Social Security number.

Some other COVID-19 scam examples could include:

  • Someone posing as a government representative asking for a donation to fight COVID-19
  • Someone posing as a contact tracer asking for your financial information
  • A scammer posing as a representative from your local health department asking you to pre-register or pay for coronavirus tests or the COVID-19 vaccine, which are in fact free
  • A fraudster offering a COVID-19-related stimulus payment in exchange for your personal information

Sadly, there truly are so many scams out there right now that it’s difficult to describe all of them.

What might fraudsters and scammers do with my personal information?

If a scammer steals your Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security information, they could commit medical identity theft and use your information to receive health care services or fraudulent state funding. If they steal your credit card number, they could commit credit card fraud and purchase items and services without your consent.

Depending on what type of information you provide to the fraudster or scammer, they could fraudulently submit unemployment claims on your behalf, transfer money out of your bank accounts, open credit cards in your name and more.

What can I do to protect myself against COVID-19 vaccine scams and fraud?

Most importantly, be cautious and suspicious of new offers from strangers or statements that seem too good to be true.

  • Don’t provide any personal information to anyone who calls, emails, texts or reaches out to you unexpectedly. Government and state officials will not call you to obtain personal information for any reason, especially in order for you to receive the vaccine.

  • Do not click on email links if you do not know the sender. Also do not click on any text message links if you do not know the sender.

  • Ignore advertisements online for COVID-19 testing or vaccines. News organizations and federal or state government sources should be your main sources of information about COVID-19 tests and vaccines in your area.

  • Do not share pictures of COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media, because these cards can include your date of birth, health care details and other personally identifiable information that someone can use to steal your identity.

Lastly, talk to your doctor. They can direct you to official resources, official COVID-19 testing sites and more.

What should I do if I think I’ve been the victim of a COVID-19 scam?

You can report COVID-19 scams online or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS. You can also call the FBI Hotline (1-800-CALL-FBI).

Follow our Medicare Coronavirus News page for related information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on Medicare beneficiaries.

Lisa

About the author

Lisa Eramo is an independent health care writer whose work appears in the Journal of the American Health Information Management Association, Healthcare Financial Management Association, For The Record Magazine, Medical Economics, Medscape and more.

Lisa studied creative writing at Hamilton College and obtained a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University. She is a member of the American Health Information Management Association, American Academy of Professional Coders, Society of Professional Journalists, Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Lisa currently resides in Cranston, Rhode Island with her wife and two-year-old twin boys.

 

Website: LisaEramo.com

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