Insurance Scams During the COVID Outbreak

July 28, 2020

These are trying, unprecedented times. And criminals, hoping to capitalize on the public’s fear, are top-notch opportunists. Recently, we’ve seen predators use insurance scams in a variety of ways to exploit and abuse unaware people. The old “see a need and fill it” philosophy is given a negative spin and used to swindle. Scammers also appeal to our desire for information and our need for hope. These aren’t just small-time crooks - insurance fraud ranges from individual schemes to multibillion dollar criminal enterprises. Knowing their strategies is the first step in protection and the best way to stop the spread of fraud.

Scams to Look Out For

Criminals looking to take advantage of the public’s concern over COVID-19 are good at what they do. But don’t worry, with the right advice you can steer clear of these tricksters. Here are some key tactics to look out for:

Tech trends: Emails that seem to come from your insurance company, federal or local organizations, or a governmental authority might ask for personal information or require you to download a file or click a link. That action could launch malware on your device and enable the bad actor to steal personal data that they could use to file phony insurance claims and pocket the payouts.

Robocalls from seemingly legitimate insurance companies might ask recipients to then dial a toll-free number, where they end up speaking to a trained marketer who attempts to sell them “COVID-19 insurance.”

Auto fraud: Preying on fear of infection, crooks who plan and stage auto accidents will then insist on not calling police and/or limiting contact and keeping details murky. This allows them to manipulate the facts and file bogus claims against your auto policy.

If you’re involved in an accident, the auto repair shop could charge outlandish fees for cleaning and disinfecting or insist that they cannot work on your vehicle for several days out of fear of COVID-19 contamination. In the end they will be billing all that time and “service” to your insurance company.

Empty promises: Travel insurance and “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) gimmicks take a kernel of truth – these are legitimate coverages – and make far-fetched claims. They could say that the coverage they’re offering will handle all COVID-19-related trip cancellations.

Con artists try to offer “free vaccines” or special COVID-19 test kits, claiming that the products are covered by your health insurance policy. Others promise well-known prescription drugs as cures or preventive therapies, for a price. Once they have your information, they can use it however they please. Within senior housing complexes and assisted-living facilities, seniors are being approached with similar Medicare scams.

Cancellation threats: Con artists might call and inform you that your insurance has been cancelled, but that for an over-the-phone payment they can reinstate coverage. They increase the stakes by claiming that a family member is deathly ill and in need of a respirator or other treatment that the coverage will provide.

It can be tough while in the moment, but it’s vital that you step back and evaluate the situation. If promises seem too good to be true, and if threats require payment or personal information to be resolved, you’re likely dealing with fraud.

How To Stay Safe

When you are already preoccupied with everyday efforts to protect yourself and your family, it could be tempting to believe scammers’ promises. So here are some ways to ensure that you keep alert to threats and bypass those bad actors.

Robocalls: Ignore calls from unknown numbers – they can leave a voicemail if it’s important. If you do happen to answer, do not engage the caller – hang up! And if you somehow end up in a conversation with a person who seems suspect, NEVER give away personal information like your SSN, insurance policy number, or Medicare details.

Email scams: Do not click on links or call phone numbers advertised in an email. Keep an eye out for typos or oddly-worded messages – these are signs of a scam. Check the email address of the sender to be sure it’s from a legitimate source.

Insurance companies and government authorities will send a letter if there is an issue to address or an offer for you to consider. But if an email leaves you questioning its legitimacy, contact your insurance company or local government office directly to inquire.

Cures or treatments: Experts say that it will be months before a vaccine is available. Treatments are still under investigation. If anyone promises anything as a cure or treatment for COVID-19 and wants to bill your insurance company for it, you can be sure that it’s fake. Instead, look for mailed communication from your insurance company.

Travel claims: If you have travel insurance, then you might know that it does not cover pandemic-related claims. And while some do offer a “cancel for any reason” option, it’s an add-on that needs to be purchased at the outset. Some legitimate travel insurance companies could make exceptions, but they would offer this lenience to current – not new – customers.

Once you know a fraudster’s game, you can see right through it. So take time to analyze your instincts––if things don’t feel right, they probably aren’t. And remember: nothing is as urgent as a scammer makes it seem.

Be sure that your information sources are reliable and accurate. Following local and national news and reaching out to insurance providers will keep you informed and up-to-date. News reports may also alert you to recent and on-going insurance-related scams.

Protect Yourself, Protect Others

Keeping ourselves safe means reaching out to those around us. This pandemic has taught us just how closely we’re all connected. Now is the time to own that reality and make it mean something––collaboration is key. So share what you know and help friends and loved ones during this stressful time. And be sure to report any suspicious calls or emails. Through everyone’s vigilance we can lessen the toll and slow the spread of fraud.

Here are more resources to keep you informed and connected:

The Federal Communications Commission
U.S. Government:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
Federal Bureau of Investigations:
The U.S. Department of Justice:
Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

Althans Cares

We know that this is an exceptionally difficult time. That’s why at Althans Insurance we are dedicated––now more than ever––to putting clients first. You can always turn to our team for reliable information about how the coronavirus pandemic affects insurance. And if you need a listening ear, we’re here too. We still offer the top-notch insurance products that you have come to expect from us. And we are committed to helping you through this. Please feel free to reach out––we’re happy to serve.