Guardians, conservators, family members, trustees and others who care for elders, those with disabilities and other people with vulnerabilities are wise to understand and be prepared to put protections in place against fraudulent scams related to COVID-19. Financial exploitation is a common form of elder abuse that seems to morph with current events. Our elders are more susceptible to scams and undue influence, and currently, scammers have come up with a variety of coronavirus scams.
Federal scam alert
The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) maintains a COVID-19 scam webpage for the public. The agency is warning about financial abuse and health care fraud schemes that could impact vulnerable people.
For example, scammers posing as contact tracers or government health care representatives are targeting Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries (who are usually elderly or disabled people) by telling them that their public insurance will cover the costs of COVID-19 tests.
Then, they request Medicare numbers and other personally identifiable information, saying that they will use it to set up and bill for the tests. Instead, scammers use the information to commit “medical identify theft,” submitting fraudulent bills to Medicare for reimbursement. Denied claims may then get billed to the defrauded beneficiaries.
Guardians, family members and others in positions of protection should take necessary steps to shield their vulnerable family members or protected persons from unsolicited visitors, calls, emails or texts used to initiate this scam or advertised on social media. HHS warns not to open any links sent electronically.
If the vulnerable person has medical concerns related to the coronavirus, the person’s regular medical provider should address those concerns to see that testing referrals and claims submitted to public insurers are legitimate.