Fraud Alert: Fraudsters taking advantage of the Coronavirus
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (March 20, 2020) Highmark is focused on protecting its members from fraudsters who will take advantage of these uncertain times. Suggestions for fraud alerts to be considered by Highmark include:
- Be wary of advertisements for vaccinations or medications to treat the virus which are not authorized by the CDC, your local health department or your physician
- Always be on the lookout for unexplained or unauthorized charges appearing on your Explanation of Benefits statement
- Be aware of spear phishing emails referencing Coronavirus or COVID-19 which may contain malware
- Be wary of advertisements offering health products that are ineffective against Coronavirus or COVID-19 i.e. herbal teas, supplements, oils or ointments. Seek guidance from your physician
- Do not accept telemarketing or “Robo-Calls” from callers you did not authorize to call you.
- Highmark will not call their members offering free services or medication. Members may receive calls from entities stating they are Highmark or work with their insurance. Highmark would never ask a member for their insurance number, address or other personal information. Be wary of calls that ask for this information and do not conduct the standard verification process that Highmark would when speaking to their members.
- Be wary of scammers going door to door offering free test kits in exchange for insurance information or cash. Don’t accept any other medications (i.e., inhalers). Door to door scammers may also be there to commit other crimes such as robbery.
These additional COVID-19 scams were supplied by law enforcement sources for awareness:
- Treatment scams: Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
- Supply scams: Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
- Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.
- Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
- Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
- App scams: Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.
- Investment scams: Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.
- Price Gouging scams: Individuals and businesses may sell essential goods, like hand sanitizer, for significantly higher prices than in a non-emergency setting. It is legally considered price gouging when the price of one of these products increases more than 20 percent its price one week prior to an emergency declaration from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.