BATON ROUGE, La. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana warns Louisianians that, unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis to trick people into handing over personal, financial and other sensitive information.
Scammers can approach you at work, at home, or through email, text messages and telephone calls. It’s important to be alert, especially if you are approached by someone you’ve never spoken to before.
“The old saying ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ is a good practice for avoiding scammers,” said Dr. Larry Simon, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana medical director. “Don’t let criminals take advantage of your emotions during this stressful time. If you get any cold calls or outreach, even if it’s people claiming they’ve talked to your doctor or health insurance company, don’t engage.”
“If you do not personally know the person calling, or if you have not already talked to your doctor about the call, hang up and delete the message. Don’t reply, and report the message and call if possible,” Simon added.
Several ongoing COVID-19 scams relate to healthcare. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that some people may be marketing unauthorized or fraudulent at-home COVID-19 test kits. Talk to your usual healthcare provider and follow his/her guidance about any COVID-19 testing you should have. Be on the lookout for cold calls or solicitations from people selling at-home COVID-19 test kits.
And, be wary if you get cold calls or unsolicited emails about COVID-19 “miracle cures.” Currently, there is no vaccine or medication that prevents or cures COVID-19, and health officials are recommending basic hygiene precautions to prevent its spread.
Before you try any treatment or medication, for COVID-19 or any other health issue, check with your regular healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe for you. If you get items like drugs, skin creams, foot baths or medical equipment that you didn’t order delivered to you, report it right away to your healthcare provider’s office or to your health insurance company. It may be a scam to fraudulently bill your health insurance.
Here are some other signs warning you that you may be getting approached by a scammer:
The message communicates a tremendous sense of urgency, e.g. “Click in the next five minutes to take advantage of this offer!” The criminals are trying to rush you, so you act quickly and fall for their tricks before you have time to think about it.
The panicked message appears to come from someone you know claiming to be in the hospital or stranded in another country because of COVID-19 and asks you to wire money or share your credit card information to pay for his/her treatment or emergency travel options. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gotten reports of these types of scams, which commonly target older adults and claim to be from grandchildren or other younger relatives. If you get a request like this, take some steps to make sure the message is really coming from that person before you send any money or give any of your financial details–reach out directly if you can, or ask other family members if they are aware of this situation.
Be very suspicious of any phone call or message claiming to be from an official or government organization. In addition to COVID-19, scammers take advantage of tax season to call people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service or another official entity, saying they need to verify details in the person’s tax return such as Social Security number, banking account numbers or other personally identifying information.
In general, if someone asks you for information you don’t feel comfortable giving out, don’t do it.
“Don’t worry about seeming rude – you need to protect yourself and your family,” Dr. Simon said. “If the person asking needs this information for a real purpose, then he or she will understand your concerns and will work with you to find a secure way you can submit or confirm your personal information.”
If you think you’ve been the victim of fraud or have been approached by a scammer, you can report it to Blue Cross’ Fraud Hotline by calling 1-800-392-9249 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free Identity Protection Services
Eligible Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana customers can sign up for free identity protection services offered in partnership with Experian, a national company that specializes in identity protection.
Most customers are eligible for these services, which include:
While these services are an extra benefit for being a Blue Cross customer, they apply to all parts of life, not just healthcare. If your credit card is stolen or there is a data breach at a retailer where you shop, these services will protect you then, too.
Identity repair is automatically available to you with no enrollment required. If you become a victim of identity theft, contact Experian’s customer care team at 1-888-270-0056. An Experian investigator will act as your guide and advocate from start to finish until the issue is resolved.
Credit monitoring is available as an extra layer of protection that helps you stay informed of your credit activity. If you want these services, you need to sign up. You will not be automatically enrolled.
To sign up for credit monitoring with Experian:
After you sign up, Experian will check in with you each year to make sure you are still eligible for these services. If you are and wish to continue, you can quickly renew, and your coverage will remain in place.
For more information about these services, visit Blue Cross’ identity protection services website.
Dr. Simon offers tips to avoid healthcare fraud and other scams in this video (2:15).
You can visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube page to see short videos with the clinical team and others discussing COVID-19, how to prevent spreading illnesses and more. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can also connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates on COVID-19 and other health topics.
For information on what Blue Cross is doing for members during the COVID-19 situation, visit www.bcbsla.com/covid19.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We were recognized in 2019 as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.