INSIGHT: Fake Cures and Test Kits—Scammers Target Health Care

Bloomberg Health Law & Business News

Anjali N.C. Downs, Anjana D. Patel, and Jack Wenik, Members of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences and Litigation practices, co-authored an article in Bloomberg Health Law & Business News, titled “INSIGHT: Fake Cures and Test Kits—Scammers Target Health Care.”

Following is an excerpt:

The Department of Justice is prioritizing the prevention of fraud during the coronavirus pandemic, and health care is a particularly fertile ground for scams.

There will always be unscrupulous individuals and organizations, even in health care, that seek illegitimate gains during a crisis. Below are recent fraud-fighting efforts by the DOJ and a look at what to expect in the health-care industry as this pandemic continues.

Test Kit Scams

A March 23 fraud alert from the the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) warns about several health-care fraud scams, including scams offering Medicare beneficiaries Covid-19 testing kits in exchange for personal information.

The fraud alert points out that fraud perpetrators are targeting beneficiaries through telemarketing, social media and door-to-door visits. The DOJ also said March 24 the department had received reports of, fraudulent and criminal behavior and detailed the specific authorities that are at the disposal to DOJ attorneys to punish Covid-19 related wrongdoing.

Some of these authorities included computer fraud, health-care fraud, identification fraud and aggravate identity theft, terrorism-related violations, and violations under the Defense Production Act.

Fake Cures

No doubt an immediate priority will be for DOJ prosecutors to use traditional mail and wire fraud statutes to make examples of those who victimize the public by touting fake cures for the virus or obtaining personal/financial information from individuals and organizations by posing as government or health-care agencies.

Indeed, in its first reported action, on March 21, DOJ attorneys went to court to shut down the website, which was peddling fake virus vaccines.

Health-care lawyers and their provider clients should be especially vigilant regarding claims for “treatments,” “drugs,” “vaccines,” or “tests” touted for Covid-19.

In addition, the government is reporting “phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” and other “malicious websites and apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received, and involve seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.”

Additional malfeasance schemes include medical providers obtaining patient information for Covid-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.