The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning the public about several emerging health care fraud schemes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Criminals are actively manipulating the COVID-19 pandemic to their advantage,” said Calvin A. Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “We ask all Americans to remain vigilant to avoid falling victim to these schemes.”
Bad actors are selling fake COVID-19 test kits and unapproved treatments through telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits. Many scammers are promising free care to patients in order to gain access to their personal and health insurance information, including their dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and financial data.
The FBI wants the public to be aware of the following schemes:
COVID-19 Testing Schemes
Beware of individuals who contact you in person, by phone, or by email to tell you the government or government officials require you to take a COVID-19 test. These scammers will likely ask for your health insurance information, including your Medicare or Medicaid number, and other personal information. Prior health care fraud investigations have shown that once scammers obtain an individual’s personal information, they use it to bill federal health care programs and/or private health insurance plans for tests and procedures the individual did not receive and pocket the proceeds. Be cautious of any unsolicited offers that require or request your medical insurance information.
Also beware of individuals offering to sell you a COVID-19 test kit or supplies, especially when these contacts are unexpected. A physician or other trusted health care provider should assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing. Some scammers are selling fake at-home test kits; some are even going door-to-door and performing fake tests for money. Legitimate tests are offered free to patients when administered by a health care professional.
COVID-19 Treatment Schemes
Legitimate medical professionals and scientists throughout the U.S. are working hard to find a cure, approved treatment, and vaccine for COVID-19. Unfortunately, they don’t yet exist. At the same time, scammers are working hard to sell fake cures, treatments, and vaccines. Ignore unsolicited offers for these fake procedures. Do not provide any personal information, including your financial information, Medicare or Medicaid number, or private health insurance information to anyone offering them.
When an approved treatment or cure becomes available, the first time you hear about it will not be through an email, telephone call, online advertisement, or unsolicited in-person sales pitch from a stranger.
You should also beware of scammers claiming to be medical professionals and demanding payment for treating a friend or relative for COVID-19.
If you do receive treatment for COVID-19, be sure to check the medical bills and the explanation of benefits from your provider, government health program, or insurance company. Be sure you are not billed for medical services you did not receive and that the dates of service are accurate. If you spot an error, call your medical provider and your insurance company.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General issued a COVID-19 Fraud Alert video to warn about several health care fraud scams.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted extensive guidance and information on the Internet that is updated frequently. You may also consult your primary care physician for guidance.
If you think you are a victim of COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it to National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the FBI (visit ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI).