If you thought scammers of the phone & texting & email varieties have taken some time off because of Covid — I’m afraid to tell you that you’re very wrong.
Covid opened up a whole new avenue for predatory deception and malfeasance, sadly, so here’s TextNow’s quick round-up (courtesy of The Office Of The Inspector General from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services) of some of the recent swindles making the rounds. Arm yourself with knowledge!
Covid Scams To Watch Out For
Social Media direct messages: If you’re on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) one particularly nefarious scam involves hackers taking over an innocent social media account in order to send direct messages from that account to you. These messages claim that you are the beneficiary of a “government grant”, being issued in response to the pandemic. The message will usually ask you to call a phone number to access your non-existent grant, and then say there’s a “processing fee” involved which you have to send to them, using gift cards or bitcoin for payment. Needless to say, no legitimate grant program would ask you for a fee first, and especially one that would accept gift cards or bitcoin.
Fake Covid Tests: Also be wary of Medicare scams claiming to offer Covid tests in exchange for your Medicare or other personal information. There are no authorized services doing this, and any offers like this are fraudulent.
Medically unnecessary blood tests: Now this next one is a little trickier, some actual medical labs are performing “Covid tests”, which are simply blood draws, which the labs then bill Federal health programs for medically unnecessary services. So while they’re not scamming money directly from you, it’s still a scam, and drawing blood when you don’t need to seems particularly goulish.
Contact tracing scammers: There are people claiming to be contact tracers for Covid. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number, financial information, or attempt to set up a COVID-19 test for you and collect payment information for the test.
How Can I Not Get Scammed?
- First and most importantly, you will never be asked for money to “enhance your ranking” for vaccine eligibility by any legitimate governing body or public service.
- Vaccines and Covid tests will not be administered by door-to-door solicitations.
- You will never be called or contacted by social media for your personal or Medicare information in order to obtain a vaccine.
- Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit review.
- Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites. If you make an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an official testing site.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone claiming to offer grants related to COVID-19.
When it comes right to it, for all scams (Covid or not), you should absolutely never give out your personal and especially your financial information to an unknown contact or source, online or off. Stay vigilant and be skeptical.
If you suspect COVID-19 health care fraud, report it immediately online or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).