On April 13, 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a press release warning the public about several emerging health care fraud schemes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The press release warns that, “[B]ad 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.”
Focusing on fraudulent COVID-19 testing schemes, the FBI warns the public to beware of individuals who contact you 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. Once scammers obtain an individual’s personal information, they can 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. The FBI also cautions the public to beware of individuals unexpectedly offering to sell you a COVID-19 test kit or supplies. 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.
Focusing on fraudulent COVID-19 treatment schemes, the FBI warns that scammers are selling fake cures, treatments, and vaccines for COVID 19. The FBI advises the public to ignore unsolicited offers for these fake procedures, and cautions against providing any personal information, including your financial information, Medicare or Medicaid number, or private health insurance information to anyone offering them. The FBI also warns the public to beware of scammers claiming to be medical professionals and demanding payment for treating a friend or relative for COVID-19. The FBI advises that 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. Also, check to 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 FBI encourages victims to immediately report suspected COVID-19 fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or [email protected], or the FBI (visit ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI).
A link to the FBI press release can be found here: https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-warns-of-emerging-health-care-fraud-schemes-related-to-covid-19-pandemic
Fraudulent insurance and benefit claims cost the U.S. health care system hundreds of billions of dollars per year. It is appalling but not unexpected that fraudsters are exploiting opportunities presented by the current health care crisis. What remains to be seen is whether and to what extent they get away with it.