Covid-19 Scams – How to Protect Yourself
Table of Contents
- By David Lukic
- Jan 31, 2022
For nearly two years, the vast majority of the world has been affected by Covid-19. It is indisputable that Covid-19 has changed many things about our world and how we live our lives. Furthermore, we have had to live in a state of constant change as the virus mutates, makes its way around the world, and as new preventions and treatments emerge. The continuous nature of research means that we often wake up to new recommendations and updates in the news. This has undoubtedly added a layer of constantly evolving information to our already very full plates. Sadly, scammers see all of this as an opportunity to evolve their scams.
Let’s face it – it is difficult not to respond to inquiries having to do with Covid-19. We all want to protect ourselves and our families and stay informed. This is precisely why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, has issued a warning about known Covid-19 scams. The latest update of this states: “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is alerting the public about fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Scammers are using telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits to perpetrate COVID-19-related scams.”
Top Covid-19 Scams to Watch Out For
- Here are some examples of existing scams that relate to Covid-19:
Fake COVID-19 test kits for home use are offered in exchange for personal or medical information. When Covid-19 cases increase, there is an increased demand for in-home tests, and they become harder to obtain. This is a golden opportunity for scammers to steal your personal information in exchange for unauthorized test kits. Bear in mind that test kits should be purchased only from credible outlets, and providing personal information is not required to obtain a test kit. In addition to the threat of identity theft and fraud, using your personal credentials, there is also the threat of getting incorrect test results.
- Door-to-door visits from criminals seeking to commit fraud, posing as volunteers promoting vaccines and other available public health services. Scammers doing this ask you to provide personal, medical, or financial details in exchange for vaccine information. Bear in mind that personal data is not required to obtain vaccination information and that vaccinations should only be researched through credible sources, such as your primary care physician, your pharmacist, or your city or town’s department of public health offices.
- Fraudulent vaccine cards offered for purchase. Forged vaccine cards have become big business for scammers. Remember that valid vaccine cards are only issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) after administering an approved Covid-19 vaccine. There are no exceptions to this.
- COVID-19 survey scams seek to collect personal information for fraudulent use. You may be contacted by phone, text, email, or a door-to-door visit to provide information for a survey about Covid-19. Never share your personal, medical, or financial information with anyone, even if money or gifts are offered.
- Personal information stolen from photos of COVID-19 vaccination cards shared on social media. While it’s tempting to share the good news that you have been vaccinated, those cards contain your full name and date of birth, which can be used for fraud.
How to Protect Yourself From Covid-19 Scams
The above mentioned scenarios are not all-encompassing. New scams relating to Covid-19 are emerging daily, so staying vigilant is very important. Here are some actions you and your loved ones can take to prevent becoming a victim of a Covid-19 scam:
- Vet testing facilities - If you make an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an official testing site. Avoid social media ads about testing centers.
- Be wary of unsolicited requests for personal, medical, and financial information for reasons relating to the pandemic. Valid doctor’s offices and insurance payers are not likely to proactively call to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit reviews. If they do, they will not ask for personal information over the phone. Medical providers and payers most often use secure communication portals to share all information with beneficiaries and members.
- Be equally suspicious of any unsolicited calls offering COVID-19 tests or treatments - If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately and do not share personal or payment information. Bear in mind that testing or treatment supplies can only be distributed legally by authorized outlets such as pharmacies or clinics.
- If you get a suspicious text message about Covid-19, do not click links contained in it – Do not respond or forward and delete these right away.
- Do not share your personal information if you are contacted about Health and Human Services (HHS) grants related to COVID-19.
- Be able to spot legitimate COVID-19 contact tracing as opposed to scam activities – While collecting some relevant information is essential for contact tracing, actual contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare or other insurance policy number or your financial information. They also will not attempt to set up a COVID-19 test for you and collect payment information for the test. Be suspicious of contact tracing activities that involve any of the above.
- Stay informed about the changing landscape of Covid-19 – Check trusted news sources for the latest on this public health challenge, and stay on top of related activities from your employer, schools you or your family members attend, your town or city, your state, and your health care facilities. If ever you are in doubt, ask.
Report suspicious activities, so others are not targeted – The Office of the Inspector General asks that “If you suspect COVID-19 health care fraud, report it immediately online (link) or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).”
As our world continues to tackle pandemic-related challenges, as do we as individuals. While never easy, this is an opportunity to become more knowledgeable about related scams and use that knowledge to protect yourself and your loved ones.