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null Don’t Fall for Fraudulent Schemes During Our National COVID-19 Fight (updated 8/28/20)

Don’t Fall for Fraudulent Schemes During Our National COVID-19 Fight (updated 8/28/20)

For Immediate Release:  2020-08-28

Contact:  Jim Redmond, (585) 238-4579, jim.redmond@excellus.com

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is focused on protecting its members from people who may attempt to prey upon their fears and vulnerabilities during this difficult time. Being aware of the types of scams and fraudulent activities you may encounter will help you guard against them and will prevent you from becoming a victim.

We encourage everyone to be vigilant of the following:

Health/health insurance scams:

  • Always review your Monthly Health Statement and be on the lookout for unexplained or unauthorized charges.
  • Be wary of phone calls from people who claim to be from our Health Plan and are asking for your health insurance number, address or other personal information.  These callers may offer you free services or medication or offer other false information – contact us at the number on your ID card to verify if not sure.
  • Ignore any offer for vaccinations to treat the virus. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine, pill, potion, lotion, lozenge, or other prescription or over-the-counter product available to treat or cure COVID-19 (coronavirus).  Please ignore offers promising otherwise. Stay informed about the disease by visiting the websites of the:
  • 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 (e.g., inhalers) from a person who comes to your door. Your safety is of the utmost importance. Do not open the door for ANYONE you do not know.
  • Be aware that scammers may contact people by phone and email and pretend to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and they may demand payment for that treatment.

Other telephone and email scams:

  • Hang up on robocalls. Don’t respond to any questions or press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls instead.

  • There are reports of fraudulent calls from individuals claiming to be contact tracers. The callers are currently calling from South Dakota numbers, but this could change at any time. The scammers tell individuals that they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus and then insist that testing is needed right away. They then ask for a credit card number so that the test can be mailed out. They may attempt for elicit additional personally identifiable information (PII), such as one’s social security numbers, and protected health information (PHI), such as one’s medical history, to be used for later schemes.

  • Be aware of spear-phishing emails referencing coronavirus or COVID-19, which may contain malware. Do not open any documents or click on any links unless you are absolutely sure they are safe.

Unemployment benefits scam:

  • If you receive mail correspondence that appears to indicate you’ve applied for unemployment benefits when in fact you have not, contact your applicable state agency, such as the NYS DOL State Department of Labor at 1-888 598-2077 or use its online form to report the fraud.  Also, file a fraudulent claim report with the Federal Trade Commission online: https://www.identitytheft.gov/.

Online and mobile app scams:

  • Keep an eye out for fake 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, the scammers take the money and never provide the promised supplies.

  • Be aware that scammers are creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.

Price gouging:

  • Avoid price gouging by individuals and businesses that sell essential goods, like hand sanitizer, for significantly higher prices than normal. Report retailers that appear to take unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services that are vital to the health, safety, or welfare of consumers for an excessive price. Report such incidents to the OAG.

Charitable donations/grants/investments scams:

  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone claiming to offer U.S. Department of Health & Human Services grants related to COVID-19. Check oig.hhs.gov/coronavirus for more updated information.

  • Use caution when making charitable donations. You should never feel rushed or pressured to donate, and never make donations in cash, by gift card, or by money wire. If you receive a charitable solicitation, do some research to determine whether the charity is legitimate. Here are some helpful resources that provide lists of reputable charities and those that adhere to accountability standards:

  • Beware of COVID-19-related investment scams. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently warned investors about coronavirus investment frauds. If investors are aware of or suspect securities fraud or wrongdoing, they can contact the OAG's Investor Protection Bureau.


This information and much more can be found at the New York State Attorney General’s website at https://ag.ny.gov/coronavirus, as well as the Coronavirus Scams page on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission website here: https://www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams-consumer-advice.

If you suspect fraud related to your health insurance, you can:

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.