COVID-19 Test Kit Scams on the Rise

Covid-19, test kit scams

Have you received any unwanted and/or unsolicited COVID-19 tests? If so, you’re not alone. One of our top Medicare scams in California right now is COVID-19 test kit scams. Beneficiaries and their family members are reporting boxes of unwanted tests arriving on their doorsteps. And, in checking their Medicare Summary Notices, they are finding Medicare is being billed 4-5 times the cost of the tests or more. In some cases, Medicare is being billed multiple times for the same test.

For example, in one case reported to us, a niece who was reviewing her aunt and uncle’s Medicare Summary Notices (MSNs), found her aunt’s MSNs to be “over the top ridiculous”. In one instance, Medicare was billed twice for the same tests, and in another instance, Medicare was billed 15 separate times for eight COVID tests by various companies all over the US. While Medicare didn’t pay all of those billings, it did pay $846.72 for these COVID tests that her aunt and her doctor never ordered.

Why and how is this happening?

Unfortunately, most of these scams are the result of fraudsters using stolen Medicare beneficiary information. In some cases these scammers buy stolen Medicare numbers online. In other cases, they con beneficiaries into giving them their Medicare numbers. Then the fraudsters use these Medicare numbers to bill Medicare a hefty amount for over-the-counter test kits, and beneficiaries receive test kits they never ordered. While it’s mostly Medicare being billed and paying the claims, some beneficiaries have also been billed.

Our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), SMPs across the country and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) are all receiving large numbers of reports of these scams. Earlier this year the OIG posted a fraud warning on its website, urging consumers to report this and other covid-related scams. We also have a fraud alert on our website – translations in Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog are also available.

Being targeted once can mean a person is vulnerable to future scams. A stolen Medicare number can be used repeatedly to get payment for all kinds of things or sold to other fraudsters. If a fraudster has someone’s Medicare number, s/he can bill Medicare for procedures, tests, drugs, services, and durable medical equipment. These stolen Medicare numbers are more valuable than credit cards or Social Security numbers on the “dark web.”

So far, prosecutors at the Department of Justice have confirmed only one case involving the testing scam. A doctor in Florida and a test supplier in Georgia face charges after they were accused of illegally paying an unnamed Virginia marketing company approximately $85,000 to obtain beneficiary numbers for thousands of Medicare beneficiaries throughout the United States.

Tips to avoid fraud

Beware of offers for “free” COVID-19 test kits in exchange for your personal financial information or Medicare number. This is a scam. As the public health emergency due to COVID-19 ended on May 11, 2023, Medicare no longer covers these over-the-counter tests. Medicare does, however, continue to cover tests provided in a clinic, doctor’s office, or other health care setting and processed by a laboratory. Some private Medicare Advantage plans may continue paying for the at-home tests.

Review your quarterly Medicare Summary Notices (MSNs) to make sure all the items and services billed are ones you received.

Be cautious about any unsolicited requests for your personal, financial or medical identity and information. Medicare will not call or email you, and will not contact you to offer products, services or benefits in exchange for your Medicare number.

Report any suspected fraud to our California Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-855-613-7080. Also, download and share our fraud alert.

If you receive unsolicited COVID-19 test kits

Write down any information on the sender of the kits, such as the name, address, company name and how many tests were sent.

Contact Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 to report the fraud and your compromised Medicare number. Medicare will send you a new card with a new Medicare number. You should receive it within two weeks.

Report it to our California Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-855-613-7080 as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

Karen Joy Fletcher

Our blogger Karen Joy Fletcher is CHA’s Communications Director. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she is the online “public face” of the organization, provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare and other health care issues. She is responsible for digital content creation, management of CHA’s editorial calendar, and managing all aspects of CHA’s social media presence. She loves being a “communicator” and enjoys networking and collaborating with the passionate people and agencies in the health advocacy field. See her current articles.