OIG Warns of COVID-19 Testing Scams

Apparently, scammers aren’t among the legions of people not working due to COVID-19. On March 23, the OIG issued a public service announcement and accompanying video warning consumers of scammers seeking to exploit “unsuspecting patients” by offering bogus COVID-19 tests and treatments in exchange for personal information such as Medicare numbers.

The COVID-19 Testing Scam

The scammers are deploying many of the same techniques used to perpetrate the recent genetic testing fraud targeted by the Operation Double Helix federal takedown. See Lab Compliance Advisor (LCA), Oct. 29, 2019), including telemarketing calls, social media platforms and door-to-door visits. But instead of genetic tests, they’re offering unapproved and illegitimate COVID-19 testing. Just give us your Medicare number or other personal information and we’ll send you the tests right away, they promise.

Of course, they use the personal information they collect to carry out bigger and more nefarious schemes, like fraudulent billing of federal health care programs and medical identity theft. And if Medicare or Medicaid denies the claim for an unapproved test, the beneficiary could be responsible for the cost.

4 Precautions

OIG is advising people to take four precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19 test scammers:

  • FrauBeing suspicious of unsolicited requests for Medicare or Medicaid numbers or any other personal information;
  • Being suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies;
  • Ignoring offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites; and
  • Keeping in mind that a physician or other trusted healthcare provider should assess their condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing.

OIG is also urging consumers who believe they may have been subject to COVID-19 fraud to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline, (866) 720-5721, or “We will not tolerate these scams,” it declares. “With our law enforcement partners, we will be vigilant in our investigation and enforcement against those who exploit this emergency.”




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