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Protect yourself from coronavirus fraud

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

While many are dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people against letting their guard down. Warnings and advisories also include notices about fraud schemes related to COVID-19. A recent warning issued by the Tennessee Department of Health is urging residents to beware of vaccine scams.

“If you have a grandparent or another loved one who is a senior citizen, we encourage you to talk with them about not becoming a victim to these types of scams,” the advisory stated.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General has also advised the general public about scams involving Medicare fraud and stated that “such schemes are targeting Medicare beneficiaries in an assortment of ways, including through text messages, social media, telemarketing calls, and even door-to-door visits.”
Scammers are known to seek personal information, but according to officials, awareness can help consumers avoid being victimized by scammers.

Other tips include: Do not pay out of pocket for the vaccine; Do not pay to have your name put on a priority list; Do not pay to get early access to the vaccine, and vaccines are not solicited door-to-door.

Some additional measures people can take to protect themselves from COVID-19-related fraud.

• Do not share personal account information. Scammers need their victims’ personal information to perpetrate their fraudulent schemes. The CDC cautions beneficiaries to be suspicious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare or Medicaid numbers.

• Do not take callers or visitors at face value. Unsolicited callers or visitors requesting Medicare or Medicaid information should be met with extreme caution. Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. Compromised personal information may be used in other fraud schemes.

• Never click on links in emails or text messages. Do not respond to, or open hyperlinks in, text messages or emails about COVID-19 from unknown individuals.

• Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites. Offers or ads for testing are one of the ways scammers are accessing personal information. Only a physician or other trusted healthcare provider should assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing.

The COVID-19 outbreak has made it easy for criminals to exploit consumers concerned about their health.

Consumers who suspect COVID-19 fraud can contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or visit Justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm to file a complaint. TF208193