Common COVID Related Scams

The COVID-19 Pandemic has created myriad issues for people to deal with.

As if this time isn’t challenging enough, it also has created an opportunity for people to prey on the elder with a variety of COVID-19 scams. Below is some information for caregivers and home healthcare workers to be on the look-out for to try and reduce the chances that someone you know or work with gets taken advantage of.

MercuryNews.com wrote about this topic and said that scammers are already out in full force.

“Scammers take advantage of whatever is out there,” Nicki Nozaki, director of Senior Medicare Patrol, told the newspaper in the article. “They’re playing on feature and confusion.”

The article highlights two specific examples of scams. Fraudsters visit residents in senior housing and offering them opportunities to be tested for COVID-19 in exchange for their Medicare number. Also, some scammers pose as Medicare officials and have told seniors via phone they will send virus test kits or a (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccine if they verify their Medicare or Social Security number.

Tatiana Fassieux, a training specialist for California Health Associates, said in the article that COVID-19 has made seniors particularly vulnerable because many are at home and distanced from family and friends. Compounding the problem, many senior centers or community events where people can be warned about scams and frauds are closed down as a result of the Pandemic.

“When (they) see these too-good-to-be-true advertisements on television or get a phone call, it sucks the person right in because during these times people’s anxiety is much higher, and if they’re alone they want to talk,” she said. “It’s the contact that people are yearning for.”

Clark Howard, a consumer expert and host of a syndicated radio show, has information on COVID-19 scams on his website. He writes that emails are a popular way to try and get people to click on links and divulge personal information. In particular, emails that use COVID-19 in the subject line or have attachments are an immediate red flag.

ConsumerFinance.Gov has recommendations for determining if seniors should be suspicious of an interaction or claim:
• You are asked for your Social Security number, bank account number, credit card information, Medicare ID number or drivers license number. This can happen by phone, text message or email.
• Someone you don’t know requests money to be sent via a payment app or a pre-paid gift card.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General has some additional best practices:
• A physicians or healthcare providers should approve any requests for COVID-19 testing
• Do not divulge any personal or financial information to someone claiming to offer Health and Human Service grants related to COVID-19.
• Be aware of scammers pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimiate contact tracers will never ask for a Medicare number or financial information.
• Ignore offers/advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites

If you suspect fraud or a scam, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (866) 720-5721 or Justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm.