You may have seen our tweet a few weeks ago warning about a scam targeting providers in Massachusetts, and there are plenty others hawking fake vaccines, fake charities, and asking for personal information. Here's how to spot the most common coronavirus frauds.
COVID-19 scam targeting providers
In one phone scam targeted at Massachusetts physicians, individuals pose as investigators of the Massachusetts Board of Medicine or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They call and claim that you are under investigation and in danger of having your medical license suspended. They may tell you that the call is being recorded on a secure line, and the call may even show up as the Board of Medicine’s main number. Under this guise of a secure investigation, they may ask for your personal information such as your NPI, DEA registration number, or financial information. The Massachusetts Board of Medicine notes that their employees will never contact a physician to demand money or request confidential personal information.
False hope: fake coronavirus treatment scams
Many coronavirus scams prey on public fear by promising treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 at an exorbitant price. The FTC has already issued warnings against companies selling false COVID-19 treatments, including teas and essential oils. There have also been reports of scam callers asking for donations to fake COVID-19 charities or selling COVID-19 test-at-home kits, health insurance, and even sanitation supplies.
Stimulus payment scams
Where's there's money there's fraud, and predictably some scammers are attempting to steal much-needed COVID-19 stimulus checks. In this case, scam artists call and tell people they need to provider personal information to “sign up” for their check. Let your patients know that, as long as they filed their taxes for 2018 and/or 2019, the government likely already has the information necessary to send you money, and there’s nothing you need to do to receive your check.
How to spot and avoid scam calls and emails
It can sometimes be hard to tell whether or not a call is legitimate. Here are some tips for you and your patients to help identify scam calls and respond to them:
- Hang up on robocalls. A robocall is a recorded message instead of a live person. Robocall sales pitches are illegal, so hang up immediately if the recorded message is trying to sell you something.
- Ignore offers for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. There are currently no products to prevent or treat COVID-19. The best ways to avoid COVID-19 remain hand-washing, cleaning frequently-used surfaces, and practicing social distancing. See the CDC for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 prevention and treatment.
- If you get a call asking for charity donations, research the charity before donating to make sure they’re legitimate. Never donate by cash, gift card, or by wiring money. If you are asked to donate this way, it is a scam.
- Double-check your emails. You may receive emails that appear to be from reputable organizations like WHO or the CDC. Before you click anything, check the URL link and email address and look for spelling errors. If something seems strange, don’t click any links or download any attachments from the email. This also applies if you receive an email from a sender you don’t know.
- Beware of any communications with “urgent” demands for money or information. Scammers will try to scare you by making you believe that something bad will happen if you don’t follow their demands immediately. If the person calling you is trying to scare you into giving them money or information, then they are a scammer. If you are still concerned, you can go to a reputable source to find out the truth. For example, if you receive the earlier-mentioned scam call targeting physicians and are concerned your license is in jeopardy, you can call your state’s Board of Medicine to ask them about the call or look on their website for information.
If you’re still unsure about how to identify scam calls, the FTC has several recordings of different scam calls so you can listen and get a sense of how scam calls sound. If you believe you are the victim of a scam, call your local police department as soon as possible.