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Beware COVID-19 health care scammers, FBI warns

The FBI warns there are several emerging health care fraud schemes in which scam artists are trying to play on your fears.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Scammers are always looking for a chance to take your money and personal information -- and the ongoing pandemic is giving some the perfect opportunity to try.

The FBI warns there are several emerging health care fraud schemes in which scam artists are trying to play on your fears.

Testing and treatment are two areas where authorities are spotting fraudsters at work.

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You may get phone calls or emails from people telling you the government is requiring everyone to get tested -- and they may seek your personal information. Don't give it out, according to the FBI.

"Prior health care fraud investigations have shown that once scammers obtain an individual’s personal information, they use it to bill federal health care programs and/or private health insurance plans for tests and procedures the individual did not receive and pocket the proceeds," the FBI says.

Some may also randomly reach out to you to try to sell you test kits or supplies

Residents have multiple ways to get free testing. County health departments offer it, and private clinics offer it as well. Those are reliable, recommended sources to get a test.

"Some scammers are selling fake at-home test kits; some are even going door-to-door and performing fake tests for money. Legitimate tests are offered free to patients when administered by a health care professional," according to the FBI.

Also, no cure and no vaccine has yet been confirmed and released yet for COVID-19. So don't believe anyone who calls you or emails you offering to sell you a treatment plan.

"At the same time, scammers are working hard to sell fake cures, treatments, and vaccines. Ignore unsolicited offers for these fake procedures. Do not provide any personal information, including your financial information, Medicare or Medicaid number, or private health insurance information to anyone offering them," according to the FBI.

There are many legitimate government websites with information updating the public about treatments. You can find some here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you think you are a victim of COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it to National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or disaster@leo.gov, or the FBI (visit ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI.