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LINCOLN, Neb. — Medicare officials are warning people that the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect petri dish for a wide array of scams, including Medicare fraud.
Devorah Lanner, AARP Nebraska communications director, said people should be extremely skeptical if anyone offers to send a coronavirus test, masks or other items in exchange for a Medicare number, money or personal information.
“Scammers are doing what they always do; this is very predictable,” she said. “They are capitalizing on the headlines as opportunities to steal money and sensitive personal information.”
Lanner said people should only hand over their Medicare number to participating pharmacists, primary- and specialty-care doctors, or people they trust to work with Medicare on their behalf. She added that Medicare will never call or email to ask for a Medicare number.
Americans should avoid offers to replace their home air ducts to prevent infection and should research any nonprofit group before making a donation, Lanner said. After Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, designed in part to send financial assistance to most U.S. families, Lanner said she also is expecting a new twist in government impostor scams.
“Since people will be receiving these economic impact payments, the IRS will not call anybody to request their personal or financial information to get a payment,” she said. “So, if anybody gets such a call, they should hang up immediately.”
Lanner said there is currently no vaccine or approved treatment for COVID-19, so she advised not to purchase any product that touts a cure. For the latest information on the coronavirus, she suggested visiting cdc.gov. AARP also has info and resources at AARP.org/coronavirus. To report scams, call toll free 877-908-3360.