Few things motivate people more through a crisis than the kindness of strangers. The shared humanity of “we’re in this together” is good for our mental and physical wellbeing. (Then there are those who ruin that good will with attempts to cash in on a bad situation like COVID-19.)
That’s what the federal Health and Human Services Department (HHS) is experiencing lately as unscrupulous people try to commit fraud against the Medicare and Medicaid government health insurance programs. HHS warns that while the nation’s health care professionals serve on the front lines of the crisis, others shady individuals are trying to swindle the public out of government money. A recent HHS inspector general report details multiple COVID-19 fraud schemes, including sales of fake tests and treatments.
“While many Americans are nobly rising to the occasion, sadly, some bad actors are preying on people’s fears for profit, perpetrating fraud schemes, including marketing fake COVID-19 test kits and unapproved treatments through telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits,” the warning states.
Scammers are trying hard to collect personal information – especially from senior citizens – to fraudulently bill federal health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Claims denied by the government for items like unapproved COVID-19 tests could result in beneficiaries being responsible for the bill. (That’s definitely not good for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.)
HHS has a National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline and encourages the public to report suspicious activity via phone at (866) 720-5721 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other fraud alerts related to COVID-19, the government warns of:
- A scam targeting federal contracting officers. The scammers pretend to be GSA contract holders to sell the government items like hand sanitizers and cleaning chemicals at exorbitant prices.
- Cyber criminals circulating fake emails purporting to be from the World Health Organization. If users open the emails and click the links, their computers are injected with malware that could steal data.
- Sales of fraudulent COVID-19 treatments. The FDA has issued several alerts, cautioning the public against using at-home testing kits that haven’t been vetted by the government.
- Fake coronavirus test kits. In mid-March, the agency intercepted packages of fake test kits at the Los Angeles International Airport International Mail Facility.
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Nextgov article, “Scammers Are Trying to Get Medicare Numbers, HHS Warns,” published on March 25, 2020.
While the nation’s health care professionals and civil servants combat the coronavirus outbreak, criminals are trying to swindle and bilk the public any way they can, according to a warning from the agency leading the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.
In a COVID-19 fraud alert Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General details a slew of coronavirus-related scams and fraud schemes, including sales of fake tests and treatments for the disease.