Cyber criminals routinely incorporate the “crisis-du-jour” into scams to increase their likelihood of success. COVID-19, it seems, is no exception. In a single week, Google saw 18 million coronavirus-related malware and phishing emails…per day! It’s gotten so bad that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found it necessary to warn the public about emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19, particularly those involving COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the HHS Office of Inspector General, criminals are using calls, text messages, social media and even door-to-door visits to perpetrate their crimes. They offer vaccine-related benefits in exchange for personal information. HHS warns, however, that these benefits are unapproved and illegitimate and that scammers use your personal information to fraudulently bill federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft.
To protect against these schemes, authorities urge everyone to be on the lookout for potential indicators of fraud, including the following.
- Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee.
- Requests for cash payments to get vaccinated or to be put on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.
- Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine.
- Offers to sell or ship doses of a vaccine (domestically or internationally) in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee.
- Unsolicited emails, texts, calls or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal or medical information to determine eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.
- Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified.
- Advertisements for vaccines through social media, email, phone, texts, online or from unsolicited or unknown sources.
- Individuals contacting you in person, by phone or by email to tell you the government requires you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Cyber criminals are nothing if not creative. They are constantly hatching new schemes to stay a step ahead of the authorities. Fortunately, HHS offers a simple, yet effective tip for protecting you and your family from cyber criminals and identity thieves—do not share your personal information with those who are unknown or unsolicited.
When preventative measures fail, insurance is available to help victims through the expensive and time-consuming process of recovery. Please contact us if you would like more information about insurance specifically designed to protect against identity theft.