COVID-19 Scam Awareness

phone-449836_1920The SCDOI has received reports of South Carolinians receiving scam marketing calls offering insurance products in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Be aware that these calls may use a virtual phone number with a South Carolina area code and phone number to trick people into thinking it is a local call. 

Scammers may attempt to use free testing as bait to obtain personal information such as bank account information, Medicare ID’s, insurance identification numbers or other documents. Scammers are also claiming to offer health insurance plans they’ve labeled as “TrumpCare” that they claim to be guaranteed issue. 

You should not provide any personal information to anyone without first verifying that they are a representative of a legitimate insurance organization. One way to do this, if they tell you they are with Medicare or your insurance company, tell them you will call them back and then dial the number you were given by Medicare or your insurance. It is always best if you initiate contact and deal with businesses, providers, insurance agents and insurance companies that you know and trust. Safeguarding your personal information is an important part of avoiding scams. 

How to protect against scams

  • Protect your computer by keeping your operating system software up to date and by using security software. Use multi-factor authentication on your accounts and back up your data.  
  • Make sure your cell phone is up to date by setting your phone settings so software updates automatically. 
  • 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.  
  • Verify a charitable organization’s authenticity before you donate. Visit the Federal Trad Commission's (FTC) website to learn how to verify a charity.
  • Be aware that if offers or shopping deals sound too good to be true, they are probably false.  
  • Do not respond to communications about COVID-19 vaccinations. There are not any approved drugs or vaccines that are known to treat the virus yet. The FDA and FTC have sent warning letters to sellers of products claiming they treat or prevent the Coronavirus.  
  • Be skeptical of texts, emails and phone calls from sources that claim they are with the government or government agencies.  

Some red flags of potential scams:  

  • Any request for you to provide your credit card information
  • Any request for you to provide personal information, like your Social Security number or Medicare ID 
  • Any proposed insurance product that sounds too good to be true.

A few of the scams to be wary of include:

  • Advertisements for TrumpCare health plans that are guaranteed issued
  • Advertisements for vaccinations or medications to treat the disease, including offers for fake home testing kits
  • Unexplained or unauthorized laboratory tests or prescriptions appearing on your Explanation of Benefits statement from your health insurance company
  • Spear phishing emails referencing Coronavirus or COVID-19, which could contain malware.

The FTC has a dedicated web page warning about several types of COVID-19 related scams, which you can view online by clicking here.

South Carolinians are urged to check the license status of a purported insurance agent or company before sharing any personal information with them. To check the license status online, click  here. Consumers can also call our Office of Consumer Services at 803-737-6180 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or email consumers@doi.sc.gov to verify the license status of any individual or company.

If you are a victim of fraud or if you see an attempt at fraudulent activity, contact the National Center for  Disaster  Fraud  (NCDF) hotline to report any fraud related to COVID-19. You can call the NCDF’s hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or e-mail to disaster@leo.gov. Hotline staff will obtain information regarding your complaint, which will then be reviewed by law enforcement officials. The NCDF is a national coordinating agency within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division dedicated to improving the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of criminal conduct related to natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies, such as the COVID-19.