These are difficult times for all of us. Rhode Islanders' health is at risk, particulary our older population and individuals with underlyling medical conditions. The gravest concern is for individuals with comprimised immune systems and breathing disorders. The State of Rhode Island has asked that we limit interaction with others whenever and wherever possible, excercise social distancing of at least six feet, and that we limit groups to five people or less.
To help protect the public from being exposed to COVID-19, the State of Rhode Island has closed schools, restaraunts, non-essential buinesses, parks, and beaches. Workers are strongly encourgaed to work from home. Visits to nursing home residents and hospital patients are prohibited.
The Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging (OHA) is working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health and Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the state’s response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Click here for important information from OHA COVID-19 Senior Resources.pdf
As a result of these restrictions, many Rhode Islanders, particularly our senior population, may be feeling isolated, lonely, or confused. Scammers are hard at work capitalizing on that vulnerability.
Scammers are weaving a Coronavirus/COVID-19 theme into traditional scams such as romance scams, tech support scams and relatives in distress scams. All of these scams are being facilitated through a variety of means including via the mail, online and also through the phone, including via robocalling.
Also, be aware of stimulus payment related scams, including scams related to “expedited processing” of stimulus payments, the payment of supposed taxes and fees in order to receive stimulus payments and government imposter scams. There are no upfront fees or supposed taxes.
Your local police department, the Rhode Island State Police, federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS, and the United States Attormey's Office and Rhode Island Attorney General's Office are working together to target the fraudsters.
Stimulus Check Fraud
The IRS has seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers. In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account taxpayers previously provided on tax returns. Those taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online to a newly designed secure portal on IRS.gov in mid-April. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer's direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file. DO NOT provide direct deposit or other banking information for anyone other than a trusted family member to input on their behalf into the secure portal. The IRS will NOT call you. Learn more about Report Phishing and Online Scams page on IRS.gov.
Here are some important tips from the Federal Trade Commission
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t 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.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
Health Care Fraud
As a result of the current stress on the supply chain, fraudsters may promise equipment they do not have access to in order to capitalize on the urgent need for it. Everyone should exercise due diligence and appropriate caution when dealing with any vendors with whom they have never worked and/or of which they’ve never heard, and when relying on unidentified third-party brokers in the supply chain. Suspicious indicators of fraud may include unusual payment terms (i.e., supplier asking for up-front payments or proof of payment), last-minute price changes, last-minute excuses for delay in shipment (i.e., claims that the equipment was seized at port or stuck in customs), and unexplained source of bulk supply.
Scammers are also utilizing several fraudulent methods to collect personal identifiable information (PII) including robocalls, social media sites, door to door promotions, telemarketers, and phishing and malware distributions through digital devices. They’re paying kickbacks to marketers and recruiters to obtain PII to include Medicare, Medicaid, and private health care insurance beneficiary identifiers. Once PII is obtained, subjects misuse this information to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and private health care insurers for laboratory tests, durable medical equipment (DME), prescription medication that are not medically necessary and/or are never provided to the patients. Individuals are offered genetic tests to include cancer genomic testing, used to aid in the diagnoses of cancer, and pharmacogenetic testing, used to determine how an individual’s body will react to certain medications. The genetic tests may be false, not run, and results may be inaccurate and/or not provided to the patient. Many subjects who are conducting genetic testing and DME frauds are expanding their fraud schemes in order to take advantage of vulnerabilities of the healthcare system caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you suspect someone is trying to scam you or has scammed you, please call your local police department immediately, or
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Report it to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
- If it's a cyber scam, submit your complaint through https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
- Report any incidents of mail fraud – especially those related to coronavirus/COVID-19, including government stimulus payments – to the US Postal Inspection Service here.
- Unsolicited emails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should forward it to email@example.com.
If you need help more informaion on reporting online fraud and cybercirme, you can call the United Way's 211 or click here: https://www.uwri.org/cyber-security/
AARP is hosting a free, weekly Tele-Town Halls on Coronovirus every Thursday from 1:00pm t0 2:30pm, providing important information on care and fraud. For more information and to learn how to listen in click AARP National Live Weekly Tele-Town Halls on Coronavirus
Below you will find several downloadable and printable brochures with important information