Medical and financial ID theft can max out health plans, deplete finances

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ALBANY, N.Y. (04/28/2020) (readMedia)-- Stepped-up digital defenses can thwart persistent COVID-19 cyber scams that seek to steal consumers' medical and financial identities, warns the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud.

Identity takeovers are the primary goals of ongoing pitches for COVID-19 equipment, treatment and tests - and fake government bulletins. Malicious emails, robocalls, texts and bogus websites continue mass-spreading despite repeated crackdowns.

Cyber-scams can threaten consumers' health and deplete their finances, the New York Alliance warns.

The pitches typically ask people to reveal sensitive personal information for damaging identity thefts. One click or open is all it takes to trigger a damaging identity theft, the New York Alliance says.

New Yorkers received more than 235 million robocalls overall in March. Nearly one of three U.S. consumers believes they've been targeted by bogus COVID-19 pitches.

The clearest warning signs of an identity takeover attempt are unsolicited messages from strangers. They urge consumers to reveal their health insurance, Social Security, credit cards, bank accounts and other personal identifiers.

Criminals can use this information to make false and inflated claims against the victim's health policy. Bogus claims can max out policy limits when a consumer needs treatment for an urgent medical condition.

A consumer's credit also can be damaged, and banking accounts depleted. Clicking links from strangers also can load malicious software that can seize control of a victim's online accounts or hard drive.

Crime rings often buy and sell stolen medical identities on the Dark Web, expanding the danger of lasting personal damage, the New York Alliance cautions.

Consumers can thwart COVID-19 cyber-attacks. Use caution and stay alert to the warning signs.

Digital defense: 6 ways to take control

  • Report scams to 1-844-FRAUDNY.
  • Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails, and be wary of email attachments.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccines, treatments and home test kits. No products are proven to treat or prevent COVID-19.
  • Use only trusted sources - such as legitimate government websites - for accurate and trusted COVID-19 information.
  • Ignore requests for personal or financial information in emails or texts.
  • Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.