Know the ‘Red Flags’ of COVID-19 Testing & Telemedicine Scams

Scams
photo from Council on Aging

In an ongoing effort to protect Tennessee consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) is alerting Tennesseans about national and state reports of fraud being perpetrated by scammers via bogus COVID-19 testing sites and phony telemedicine treatments.

“While honest, hard-working Tennesseans have taken steps to protect their health and safety during the pandemic, scam artists and criminals are using the emergency to better themselves at the expense of others,” said TDCI Commissioner Hodgen Mainda. “I urge Tennesseans to not allow scammers to take advantage of them during this time of uncertainty. Never share your personal information or financial information with someone you don’t know. If you suspect a scammer is at work in your community, contact law enforcement immediately.”

As Tennesseans continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and get tested for the COVID-19 virus, TDCI urges consumers to beware of the fraudulent tactics used by scammers falsely posing as legitimate insurance and healthcare providers.

Fake COVID-19 Testing Sites
TDCI has been alerted to reports that some consumers have fallen victim to fake COVID-19 testing sites. At these phony testing sites, consumers give their personal identification information as required to be tested. Unfortunately, valid tests are not administered, and the patient never receives the test results.

In some cases, the consumer’s personal identification information is then sold or used to commit identity theft. Some of the scammers at these fake testing sites also ask for an exorbitant amount of money before administering the test and do not follow sanitation requirements.

What You Need to Know
Coronavirus tests for the purpose of medical diagnosis should be provided without copays or cost-share for insured patients. Anyone can receive free testing at Tennessee’s local health departments. If payment is requested at a testing site, leave immediately.

Health insurance companies in Tennessee have agreed to fully cover medically necessary COVID-19 testing. If you have issues with your health insurance company, file a complaint at tn.gov/insurance.

Only go to legitimate testing sites acknowledged by state or county health departments. Click here to find a site near you.

Legitimate testing sites only perform nasal swabs for COVID-19 tests, not genetic tests or other services.

If you believe you have fallen victim to one of these scams, contact local law enforcement immediately.

Telemedicine Scams
Consumers may receive unexpected calls from fraudulent “providers” who convince them they might have COVID-19 and should seek treatment using telemedicine. The caller then asks for insurance and other personal identification information, which is then sold or used for identity theft.

What You Need to Know
Be wary of unexpected calls from telemedicine providers. At no point should a telemedicine provider solicit a consumer’s business.

You should only receive treatment or provide information to a licensed medical professional that you intentionally contacted, or to a public health worker, who will contact you if you’ve been tested to give you test results, or to notify you that you were in contact with someone with COVID-19. Public health workers WILL NOT ask you for insurance or financial information and do NOT charge you for these services. You can find telemedicine through your health insurance or your regular medical provider.

Make sure the provider is a licensed medical professional for the services they are offering. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has seen cases where patients believe they are speaking with a psychiatrist and the patient is actually speaking to a counselor.

Always look over your medical bills to make sure you and your insurance company are not being billed for services you did not receive. CMS has discovered cases of providers billing patients’ insurance for services that are supposed to by hands-on, yet claiming they used telemedicine, as well as home health providers billing for 30 hours of services in a 24-hour period.

At this time, there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19. Anyone selling a product said to cure the virus is a scam.

If you believe your insurance company is wrongfully denying your claim, file a complaint here or contact Consumer Insurance Services at 615-741-2218.
For more information about TDCI, visit tn.gov/commerce.

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