The watchdog for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is alerting the public about fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes.
In some cases, the Office of Inspector General says telemarketers are calling people offering fake coronavirus tests, the agency notes on its website.
Other scammers have been looking to hire fake technicians to swab people, then charge them for tests, but never provide results.
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The inspector general’s agents have also noticed an uptick in "door-to-door visits and social media ads for unapproved treatments."
Other scams have offered fake telemedicine as part of an identity theft scam.
Meanwhile, marketing schemers have quickly pivoted to offering "senior care packages" that include hand sanitizer or even a purported vaccine, which doesn't exist.
It's all a trick to get personal information that can be used to bill federal and state health programs, health officials said.
"It's a straight-up ruse to get your Medicare number or your Social Security number under the guise of having a test kit or a sanitary kit sent to you," Christian Schrank, the assistant inspector general for investigations at Health and Human Services, said.
- Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.
- Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites. A physician or other trusted healthcare provider should assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing.
- If you suspect COVID-19 fraud, contact National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (866) 720-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The World Health Organization and other authorities are also working to debunk spurious claims about possible cures. They include false assertions that silver, bleach and garlic could protect against the coronavirus, or that bananas prevent it.
The World Health Organization says criminals are increasingly posing as WHO officials in calls and phishing emails to swipe information or money.
The malicious emails appear to come from the WHO, ask for sensitive information, such as user names and passwords, and prompt users to click on suspicious links and open malicious attachments. Following these instructions allows criminals to install software that can give them access to, or damage, computers.
- Verify the sender by checking their email address and check all links before you click.
- Be careful when providing personal information, do not rush or feel under pressure.
- If you see a scam, report it.
Last but not least, be on the lookout for fake charities offering to help the most vulnerable.