Mainers should remain alert for COVID-19 scams

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 2:15pm

AUGUSTA — Mainers are being urged by the Maine Insurance Superintendent to be vigilant of COVID-19 scams, according to a news release. 

“With the current health emergency, Mainers need to be cautious about scammers, including fraudulent telephone solicitations and cyber criminals,” stated Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa.

Scammers are using coronavirus concerns, the release noted, to take advantage of individuals and businesses across the United States. In fraud complaints that mention the coronavirus, the Federal Trade Commission reported on April 21st that consumers in the U.S. have lost a total of $17.97 million, with a reported median loss of $553.

Consumers should watch out for unsolicited offers for COVID-19 testing or treatment. These types of scams, identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, usually require a consumer to divulge health insurance and other personal information, which is then used to fraudulently bill for payment.

The Superintendent also reminds Mainers that if they are shopping for health insurance they should use official government sites, such as healthcare.gov and the Bureau's website maine.gov/insurance, where they will find information about approved,comprehensive plans.

“Private insurance sales in Maine are regulated by the Bureau of Insurance,” Cioppa stated. “If someone claims to have a license to sell insurance in Maine, you can get in touch with us and we can confirm that for you, or you can use the Licensee Lookup tool on our website.”

There is help available from Maines State agencies for those questioning an offer, Cioppa added. Even with the majority of state employees working remotely at this time, we are available during our usual hours to assist Maine residents.

Consumers who think they may be a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19 should contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General toll-free at 800-436-2131 (TTY 711) or online at: maine.gov/ag/consumer/complaints.

Consumers with questions about insurance matters can obtain information and assistance from the Maine Bureau of Insurance by visiting maine.gov/insurance, calling 800-300-5000 (TTY 711), or e-mailing Insurance.PFR@maine.gov.

General Tips to Protect Yourself from Scammers:

Do not reveal personal or financial information online.

Do not answer calls from unknown numbers. Hang up on robocalls and do not press any numbers.

Do not answer text messages from unknown numbers and do not reply to emails from unknown senders.

Do not click on links, download apps or download attachments from unknown senders.

Before you make an online purchase, research the company to determine its legitimacy.

Be aware that if offers or shopping deals sound too good to be true, they are probably false.

Be skeptical of texts, emails and phone calls from sources that claim they are with the government or government agencies, especially if you havent signed up for them.

Information About COVID-19 Insurance-Related Scams (Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

COVID-19 Testing Schemes

Be cautious of any unsolicited offers that require or request your medical insurance information.

Scammers who contact you to tell you the government or government officials require you to take a COVID-19 test will likely ask for your private health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and other personal information.

Once scammers obtain this personal information, they use it to bill federal health care programs and/or private health insurance plans for tests and procedures that were not conducted and pocket the proceeds.

COVID-19 Treatment Schemes

Medical professionals and scientists are working hard to find a cure, approved treatment, and a vaccine for COVID-19. At the same time, scammers are working hard to sell fake ones. Do not provide any personal information, including your financial information, Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance information to any stranger contacting you about treatment or cures.

You should also beware of scammers claiming to be medical professionals and demanding payment for treating a friend or relative for COVID-19.

Make a practice of checking your medical bills from your providers and explanation of benefits (EOBs) from your government health program or insurance company. Be sure you are not billed for medical services you did not receive and that the dates of service are accurate. If you spot an error, call your medical provider and your insurance company.