US HHS Inspector General Updates COVID-19 Fraud and Scam Alert

In January of 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations (HHS/OIG/OI) issued a healthcare fraud alert, regarding COVID-19 vaccines that has recently been updated.

This alert describes how fraudsters may be engaged in schemes involving COVID-19 vaccines to Medicare beneficiaries, targeting beneficiaries in a number of ways, including via telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits. The personal information collected could then be used to fraudulently bill Federal health care programs and the unapproved vaccines may cause harm to the beneficiaries. Potential COVID-19 vaccine schemes are listed below:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee
  • Requests asking you to pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list
  • Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine
  • Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee
  • Unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company, or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal and/or medical information to determine recipients’ eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine
  • Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified
  • Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources
  • Individuals contacting you in person, by phone, or by email to tell you the government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and HHS/OIG/OI request that your organization forward any complaints concerning COVID-19 vaccines or other COVID-19- related items and services to the Investigations Medicare Drug Integrity Contractor (I-MEDIC).

Please report your vetted COVID-19 complaints to the I-MEDIC using the referral form located at https://protect2.fireeye.com/url?k=9c3a0fee-c06e1692-9c3a3ed1-0cc47adc5fa2- 49ad86629cb1bbd3&u=https://www.qlarant.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Qlarant_I- MEDIC_Complaint_Form_2020_03_13.pdf. The I-MEDIC may also be contacted at 1-877- 7SAFERX (1-877-772-3379).

In addition, Governor Baker’s administration has released a set of frequently asked questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for individuals age 65 and older. Among the many facts is that the vaccine is available free of charge and people will never be asked for a credit card number or any other form of payment for the vaccine.