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Con Artists Using COVID-19 Tests to Scam Arizona Seniors

Advocates warn that seniors are being targeted by the "Impostor Scam," in which con artists try to convince them their COVID-19 test results are in to steal valuable personal health information. (aletta2011/Adobe Stock)
Advocates warn that seniors are being targeted by the "Impostor Scam," in which con artists try to convince them their COVID-19 test results are in to steal valuable personal health information. (aletta2011/Adobe Stock)
July 31, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. - Arizona seniors, already worried about being at high risk for the novel coronavirus, increasingly are being targeted by scammers using COVID-19 testing as a ruse.

Advocates warn that con artists working what's being called an "Impostor Scam" are using phone calls, emails and social media to falsely convince seniors that their COVID test results are in or to demand payment for a test.

Alex Juarez, communications director with AARP Arizona, said the callers are not there to help seniors - they're looking to steal personal information.

"They're trying to get names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, credit card numbers, et cetera," said Juarez. "Sometimes that includes Medicare information, private health insurance information. This health information is critical for them."

Juarez said AARP's Fraud Watch Network advises that if a senior who has not taken a COVID-19 test gets such a call, he or she should just hang up the phone. He said most labs do not contact patients directly, letting the ordering physician or other health-care provider give them the results.

He said many seniors have isolated themselves at home during the pandemic to limit exposure, so it's important for family members and other caretakers to help them watch for swindlers.

"Try to stay in touch with your loved one or your family members," said Juarez. "Ask them if they've received any type of testing. Make sure you remind them every single time that you talk to them to not provide that personal information."

Juarez said the number of scammers targeting seniors has grown considerably since the pandemic began.

"Approximately 44% to 45% of the population, and especially the senior population, has received one of these messages," said Juarez. "Unfortunately, scammers look for opportunities, and this is low-hanging fruit for them."

If you or a loved one have been approached by a scammer, you can find out what to do by going online at AARP.org/FraudWatchNetwork, or calling 877-908-3360.

Disclosure: AARP Arizona contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ