During these uncertain times it’s easy to let your guard down, however, scammers are working overtime to take advantage of your vulnerability. When we are distracted and scared we have a tendency to fall victim to any promise of relief or cure that flashes across our computer screens, phones, or television sets. Due to this, both the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) and the Food and Drug Association (FDA) have issued letters warning of such scams that proclaim a cure or magical prevention for coronavirus (COVID-19). The FTC states that these companies have absolutely no evidence to back up their claims, and the FDA notes there are no approved vaccines, drugs or any magic sauce available to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
Scams Targeted at Seniors
As we have discussed before, scammers have no shame when it comes to preying on our elderly population. Seniors can sometimes tend to be more trusting and considerate when they are targeted with offers that seem plausible. Scammers follow media headlines to ensure they instill a sense of fear in their victims, and an urgency to find a solution- their solution. They use tactics that attempt to make a person feel that if they don’t buy into this offer right now, there won’t be any left over for later. Urgency and pressure are tactics that have unfortunately been perfected by scammers.
Protect Your Family from Medicare Scams
We are all taking steps to protect our family’s health during this pandemic, but are we protecting our personal information? Your Medicare number needs to be protected just as much as your identity. Scammers can lie about sending you a vaccine, test, mask or other protective item that is supposedly covered by Medicare, and all they simply need is your Medicare number. DO NOT GIVE THIS OUT! You ONLY need to share your Medicare information with your primary care provider or other trusted healthcare provider.
It’s important to routinely check your Medicare claims summary forms for any possible errors as well. If you suspect Medicare fraud please call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). If you do need to report any fraudulent claim, ensure you have this information available before you call the number above:
- Your name and Medicare number.
- The provider’s name and any identifying information you may have.
- The service or item you’re questioning and when it was supposedly given or delivered.
- The payment amount approved and paid by Medicare.
- The date on your Medicare Summary Notice or claim.
More information on fraud reporting can be found at medicare.gov. Please check this out prior to reporting any fraud, and ensure you have the correct phone number prior to calling.
Coronavirus Relief Check at Risk
You may have heard by now that some scammers are hoping to cash in on government relief checks associated with COVID-19. Some details are still being worked out, however, all you need to know is that you do not have to do anything to receive these relief funds as long as you filed taxes in 2018. As it stands right now, the government will determine if you qualify for a relief check, provided they have your tax documents, and send you your funds, if so. No funds have been released at the time of this writing.
It’s imperative that you or any family member DO NOT give out any personal information or “sign-up” for your relief check. There is nothing to sign up for right now. Therefore, trust that if someone calls you or sends you any information requesting your personal identification to “verify that you qualify for a check” THIS IS A SCAM. Scammers may also use mail-outs and email phishing to get your identity. Some of these mail-outs look just like an official letter from the government, so you must be careful.
Remember, no one has “early access” to their government relief check, so do not fall for this scam! There is no timeline set up right now for these checks, and scammers are using this lack of information to trick people into giving out their personal information. To get official updates and more information, visit the IRS’s page on economic impact payments. If you come across a scammer attempting to acquire your check, we want to hear about it by reporting it at ftc.gov/complaint.
How to Avoid Coronavirus Scams
Below are some tips on how to keep the scammers away from your family during this tumultuous time.
- If it’s a robocall, simply hang up without pressing any numbers (ignoring the call can lead to more robocalls).
- Scammers want you to buy products, so ignore any online offers of “in-home test kits” or “vaccines” for coronavirus.
- Get the facts first! Use the links throughout this post to double check if something you are reading or hearing may be a scam prior to sharing any personal information.
- Scammers can claim that their products are “in-demand”, such as hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, health and medical supplies. Make sure you know the seller and trust the seller before buying special offers during this time of uncertainty.
- DO NOT respond to any texts, calls or emails concerning your government relief check.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t recognize. If you’re not expecting the email or don’t know the sender, even opening the email can download viruses to your computer or phone.
- Emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t show up in your email. DO NOT OPEN THESE. If you want the latest information visit their website.
- Do your homework when you receive donation requests. Verify that the donation is indeed the charity you intend to give a donation to.
Other Scams to Avoid
Scammers come up every day with new and creative ways to get your information. Even the best of us get taken advantage of sometimes; however, for seniors and those on fixed-incomes, getting scammed could mean the difference between choosing to eat, or buying their much needed prescription medication. Check out our blog on Avoiding Senior Scams to find out about more scams being used year round.
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