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March 24, 2020

COVID-19: HHS-OIG Warns Public of Fraudulent Health Care Scams

Yesterday, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) released a COVID-19 fraud alert warning the public about several health care fraud scams and how consumers can protect themselves against them.

Preying upon the fears of a vulnerable population amid COVID-19, scammers have been offering fake COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details—including Medicare information—which can then be used to fraudulently bill federal health care programs. The impact of the scheme can be further compounded when the claim is denied, leaving the beneficiary personally responsible for the cost of the test that was never authorized.

This can be just the beginning of a broader identity theft scam, as stolen information is often re-deployed in future scams committed in the victim’s name. The HHS-OIG warns that beneficiaries are being targeted through social media, telemarketing calls, and even door-to-door visits as part of these schemes.

In its alert, the HHS-OIG listed several ways in which consumers can protect themselves:

  • Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies.
  • Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media.
  • A physician or other trusted health care provider should assess the consumer’s condition and approve requests for COVID-19 testing.
  • Consumers are advised to be cautious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare or Medicaid numbers.
  • If a consumer suspects COVID-19 fraud, they are advised to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866.720.5721 or disaster@leo.gov.

The HHS-OIG stated that it will be vigilant in investigating those who exploit the COVID-19 emergency, and it remains committed to protecting millions of beneficiaries across the country and supporting health care professionals serving the public during this crisis.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Linda Clark, Health Care Controversies Team leader, at lclark@barclaydamon.com; Mary Connolly, associate, at mconnolly@barclaydamon.com or another member of the firm’s Health Care Controversies Team.

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