Over $145 Million Lost to COVID-19 Scams

Over $145 Million Lost to COVID-19 Scams

Did you know that to date Americans have lost at least $145 million to coronavirus related fraud and scams? Over 200,000 complaints, with a median loss of $300, have been reported to the Federal Trade Commission between January 1 and September 22, 2020. These scams are diverse, and have played off of federal stimulus payments and other forms of financial relief, personal protective equipment, and unemployment and other government benefits, testing kits, antibody tests, emails with scammers posing as charities or respected organizations like the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control, and more. The scams continue to morph and change with new ones added, as COVID-19 affects so many areas of our lives.

Scammers unfortunately prey on the vulnerabilities created by natural disasters and public health emergencies, such as wildfires and a pandemic. In these situations, people are more likely to be in “fight or flight” mode, have their guard down and be more impulsive on responding to a phishing email or text, or a request for personal information over the phone. Also, with the pandemic already in its 7th month here in the U.S., the cumulative psychological effects of isolation, loneliness, depression that has been exacerbated for many, can take a big toll on people’s ability to make good choices and use awareness and discernment to avoid the plethora of growing COVID-19 scams.

Below are some simple and good tips to remember to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 scams. You can also find these tips and our other COVID-19 fraud alerts on our Medicare Fraud Alerts page.

  • Don’t give your Medicare number to anyone over the phone or to door to door solicitors offering to test for the Coronavirus COVID 19
  • Beware of door to door solicitors, robocalls selling virus test kits, supplies, vaccines or treatments
  • Do not give out your Medicare number, social security number or other personal information in response to unsolicited emails, calls, texts, home visits or booths at health fairs
  • Know that Medicare will never call you for your Medicare # or Social Security #
  • Watch out for fraudulent cures, therapies – Check with www.ftc.gov
  • Ignore offers for vaccines and scam contact tracing calls
  • Watch out for phishing emails, texts claiming to be from experts
  • Hang up on robocallers
  • Carefully research charities, investment opportunities www.charitynavigator.org
  • Be cautious when ordering medical supplies
    • Do not give your Medicare # to strangers
    • Ask your own doctor to assess your condition and prescribe equipment
    • Refuse equipment, supplies received from unknown source
  • Beware telemarketers selling health plans
  • Verify telehealth appointments with your own doctor
  • Review medical statements for errors, fraudulent billing
    • Check for date of service; provider name; service description
  • Keep current with Medicare, COVID 19 scams and healthcare fraud (www.cahealthadvocates.org)

Report fraud to our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) – 855-613-7080. If you’re in another state, contact your state’s SMP here: smpresource.org.

Karen Fletcher
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.