The federal government is warning people with Medicare about scam artists offering “free” COVID-19 tests.
These scammers use phone calls, phony websites or ads on the internet and TV to try to trick folks into providing their Medicare health insurance information. The scammers then use that information to bill Medicare for fraudulent charges.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says in an Aug. 23 consumer alert:
“We’re hearing about many Medicare recipients who signed up for these free COVID tests and never got them. And what makes matters worse is that scammers could also bill for other products and services people didn’t need — and didn’t get.”
The right way to get free COVID-19 tests
Folks on Medicare, the federal health insurance program that primarily serves those age 65 and older, are eligible to receive up to eight free at-home COVID-19 test kits per month.
They can pick up the over-the-counter tests at a participating pharmacy — the Medicare website has a partial list of these pharmacies.
Additionally, the federal government continues to offer free COVID-19 tests to all U.S. households, regardless of whether they have insurance. Every household may request two orders for a total of 16 free test kits.
Anyone can go to the U.S. Postal Service’s special.usps.com/testkits page to request these freebies by mail. (Note that you will not be asked to provide any health insurance information.)
How to avoid Medicare fraudsters
Medicare fraud doesn’t directly cost people with Medicare. But if you have Medicare and someone makes fraudulent Medicare charges in your name, it can affect your own coverage.
So regularly monitor your Medicare Summary Notice documents for any charges for medical goods or services that you did not receive.
If you get a call from someone who says they are from Medicare and offers free COVID-19 tests, the FTC advises that you hang up immediately.
More importantly, never provide your Medicare or other personal information to someone who calls you unexpectedly.