As the world reacts to the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are taking advantage of fear and vulnerability to get cash, credit card details, and secure personal information. Leading corporate security and individual consumer protection agencies note that scams and phishing attempts almost always increase under times of pressure, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception.
Fear + Confusion = A Perfect Time for Scams
Scams often arise when the public is particularly vulnerable due to fear and confusion. The fast-changing news cycle and constant information overload make the American public a perfect target for scammers. Just last week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a warning to the public to be mindful of schemes related to the coronavirus, particularly regarding test kits and donations for medical research. According to the statement, the Attorney General’s office is aware of a growing number of malicious scams through emails, websites, and illegitimate or non-existent charity organizations.
Unfortunately, seniors are often targeted for scams related to Medicare benefits, so be sure to be extra diligent during this time of confusion and increased medical care awareness. See some of our tips on how to identify and protect yourself below.
How to Identify a Scam
With clever technology and access to lots of information online, how can you protect yourself from a scam?
- Ignore all online sales of COVID-19 test kits. They are illegitimate offers. There are currently no vaccinations or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure the coronavirus disease, and there are also no FDA-approved home test kits available.
- Protect your Medicare ID: Guard your Medicare card like a credit card–meaning know where it is at all times and don’t pass your number out. When you get Medicare claims summary forms, check them for errors. If someone calls asking for your Medicare ID number, hang up right away.
- Pay attention to who is calling you. You may be receiving important phone calls from verified organizations (including RetireMEDiQ), but there may also be an uptick in spam telephone calls in an effort to take advantage of people. Be sure you know who is calling you and what they are calling about before providing any personal information; and, when in doubt, simply hang up.
- Before you share that social media post, double-check the source. The spread of false information can happen quickly and by well-intending people. If you need to check the authenticity of news, you can see the Government’s Response to Coronavirus, COVID-19 to better understand if what you’re reading is accurate.
- If you’re shopping online, stick to your trusted and/or well-known retailers where you usually shop. Online scammers may use this opportunity to try to sell in-demand products like cleaning and household items that they don’t actually have.
- Don’t click on random links from sources you don’t know.
- Verify any information that you receive via email regarding the CDC, WHO, and other large organizations on the organization’s websites.
Beware of Current Known Scams
With the economic stimulus package, there will be a growing number of scams directly related to stimulus checks. Don’t fill out any information regarding government checks via text, email, or phone. You will never be required to pay an upfront fee to receive your check and no one will call you to request your Social Security number, bank details, or other personal details by phone.
Please note that Medicare and Medicaid representatives will NOT call you regarding getting a free COVID-19 test kit. This is a scam.
We’ve gathered a list of some of the current known COVID-19 scams to help you protect yourself and your loved ones. USA Today included a run-down of many known scams and individual media outlets are reporting on others:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Medicare and Medicaid representatives calling with claims to provide a free at-home COVID-19 test kit in exchange for the cost of shipping.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
- Threat of people in white lab coats approaching homes, pretending to be from a state’s health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- “Free” Netflix subscriptions or free passes to become a Netflix member
If you suspect you have been targeted for a scam, contact your local authorities and follow the steps provided here. RetireMEDiQ will share more information about the novel coronavirus with you as we learn more from trusted resources.
If you are not yet a RetireMEDiQ client and have questions about what this may mean for you as you approach Medicare, contact our team of expert advisors at 1-855-981-8611.