Crises like the coronavirus pandemic tend to attract scammers. Amid all the confusion and stress, consumers may have more trouble navigating dubious claims and offers, especially when they are worried about their health or dealing with severe anxiety.
Scammers are now turning their attention to nurses and other front line workers. The latest messages contain warnings that the nurse’s license is about to expire or that they will be reported to the state if they don’t agree to pay a certain fee. Some callers ask for money, while others are looking for personal information.
Find out what these spam messages entail, so you can protect yourself from fraud.
Scams in the Time of Corona
Fraud and scams are on the rise.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency received 18,235 reports of scams related to COVID-19 from January 1st to April 15th. Of those claims, people reported losing $13.44 million dollars to fraud either over the phone, online, or in the mail. The claims often relate to travel, health, vacations, and online shopping. In other cases, the caller or sender will pretend to be the federal government to get the receiver’s attention.
However, it’s important to remember that the federal government will never call you out of the blue asking for money or personal information. The same is true of your state’s nurse licensing board and other state and local organizations. You should also never pay a bill or send money via Western Union or MoneyGram. If a business is legitimate, they will find other ways to collect payment.
If you believe you have been contacted by a spam caller, visit the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network to track reports of fraud all over the country. Officials also recommend getting something in writing instead of responding over the phone or email. You should never give your personal information away over the phone. If you owe an organization money, they can send you a bill.
The latest scams have been directed squarely at nurses, particularly those in Idaho and other hard-hit areas during the pandemic. The calls and texts say the nurse’s license is about to expire. The caller claims to be a member of the Idaho Board of Nursing, and others have even posed as agents of the FBI. Providers have also received fake but official-looking letters and documents made to look like they are from the Board of Nursing and U.S. Department of Justice.
One nurse was told that she was under investigation for allegedly trafficking illegal drugs, and that she will not be allowed to continue practicing past a certain date. She was told she could keep her license if she paid a $17,500 surety bond, which she would get back after an investigation into her activities. She was then faxed a form to help her generate the payment. The caller even used a number that had been previously linked to the Idaho state government.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden recently addressed reports of scams targeting nurses. Commenting on the situation, he said:
“These scams are very targeted in that they’re focused on Idaho nurses at a time of heightened anxiety in the medical profession. I find it particularly concerning that these scammers have included address and licensing information specific to their targets. While this information is public record, when used in this manner it makes the communication seem all that more official.”
Nurses in Seattle and Tennessee have reported similar experiences. Another nurse ended up paying scammers $300 to keep her license after the callers threatened to have her arrested. She says they knew her name and address when they called. She grew suspicious after she didn’t receive a confirmation email of the payment. She eventually called the police and the Better Business Bureau to report the claim.
She wants to keep her identity private, but she told a local news outlet at the time, “I’m like oh my God, I don’t understand what’s happening right now. So, I paid it because I was afraid.”
As challenging as the pandemic can be, try not to fall prey to scams and fraudulent claims. Be aware of the latest scams targeting nurses and share this information with your colleagues. Talk to your patients about these incidents as well, so they can report unusual phone calls, letters, and emails to the proper authorities.