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New COVID-19 vishing scam targets nursing homes

By: Lisa Marlin

December 31, 2020


When your phone rings it could be a friend checking in or an unfriendly vishing call. “Vishing is like email phishing except it involves voice calls,” explained PrivaPlan President David Ginsberg. Reportedly this is happening in nursing homes in the Midwest where residents and caregivers are getting calls from those claiming to be with their state’s Department of Health and asking for PII or PHI.

According to Matt Guy, Vice President, Health Data Governance and Strategy, PrivaPlan, most of these calls have been to those who have had recent negative tests, which is how the scam was first detected, or to main lines at nursing homes asking for information about residents who had allegedly tested positive for COVID.

While the news is unnerving it isn’t unexpected. The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Office of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently posted an article about Covid-19 Scams stating that phone scammers have seized the opportunity, using robocalls and call-back scams to offer free home testing kits, promote bogus cures, sell health insurance, and promise financial relief.

The FCC has also received reports about robocalls purporting to offer free virus test kits in an effort to collect consumers’ personal and health insurance information. One example is calls to higher risk individuals with diabetes, offering a free COVID-19 testing kit along with a free diabetic monitor. Other robocalls are marketing fake cures and asking for payment over the phone.

Just as we have provided advice to avoid the traps of email phishing, such as making sure reply addresses are valid and forwarding suspicious emails to your IT department, the FCC offers some tips for protecting yourself and your organization from falling victim to vishing calls.

  • Remember that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money.
  • Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
  • Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
  • Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
  • Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
  • Check with your phone company about call blocking services and apps to filter out suspected spam robocalls.

Contact the experts at PrivaPlan to learn more and all the services we provide at info@privaplan.com or call 877-218-7707.