The Secretary of the Department of the Family, Orlando López Belmonte, together with the Secretary of the Department of Justice, Inés del C. Carrau Martínez alerted the owners of homes dedicated to the care of the elderly and the general public, about various schemes of fraud related to the aid available for the health emergency in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A fraud scheme has been identified in which, through telephone calls, people pose as call center workers to offer masks and other disinfection products due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These companies offer these products at a cost that can be up to $ 2,400. There is information that may be identifying themselves as employees of the Family Department or using the names of DF employees, as a reference for said offer ”, denounced the secretary who urged to reject these calls and not to offer any type of information.
The official explained that the staff of the Department of the Family does not serve as a link for any company that sells disinfection or protection equipment, so any approach of this nature should be presumed as a fraudulent scheme. Each long-term care center for the elderly knows the personnel in the region who are responsible for working on matters with the Department of the Family, be it of a social or licensing nature, and in the event of any suspicious call, they can refer them to the relevant authorities.
On the other hand, it was reported that owners of this type of establishment have reported that they receive telephone calls in the early morning hours in which they require a certain amount of money to cover the costs of a ‘health license’.
In this context, Secretary Carrau Martínez indicated that, “this type of health license is only issued by the Department of Health. No employee of the Health Department makes calls late at night, much less. People should be alert when they receive these types of calls that also require a $ 1,000 money order to renew the license. This is part of the fraud schemes that unscrupulous individuals have developed in order to scam people. We want to emphasize the importance of not providing personal and financial information, which could cause the loss of money for our older adults and the operators or owners of establishments for their care ”.
Both officials exhorted the owners of establishments for the long-term care of the elderly, to be attentive and to be prudent when answering these types of calls.
The Department of the Family licenses 850 long-term care homes for older adults that serve over 18,500,000 people over the age of 60 or with debilitating health conditions and oversees about 156 certified foster homes that house between three to six older adults per facility.
Here are some steps to avoid being a victim of fraud:
▪ Be cautious when answering and answering unexpected calls or visits in which you are offered Covid-19 tests or supplies. You should not offer personal information of the elderly in your custody. Remember that, if you offer personal information, it compromises the elderly and this information could be used in other fraud schemes.
▪Be alert to the phone numbers from which you receive these calls. These can vary from call to call as they are generated from a call center using a deceptive system. It could even be a phone number that uses the Puerto Rico area code. Among these numbers the following have been identified: 1-253-392-1653 and 1-925-693-8958.
▪ If you accept the offer, you may be given a “tracking number” to verify that your purchase is on its way. This number may be false. At other times, they may send you a package with other products not related to the offer. Do not accept any offer even if they say it is free. For sure, these people already have other people’s Medicare or Medicaid numbers and will falsely bill the supplies.
▪ Ignore offers or announcements about tests or treatments for Covid-19 coming from social networks; they could be fraud schemes.
▪Be attentive to the language used. In Puerto Rico we do not use the term Department of Health, nor do we use a health license.
▪Medicaid beneficiaries and owners of nursing homes are not required to provide Medicare or Medicaid numbers, or indicate the number of residents in the facility.
▪If you are a beneficiary of the Vital Plan, do not accept any type of offer for COVID-19 tests or supplies. Always consult with the primary physician.
▪If you have questions about the services covered by the Vital Plan under this pandemic, call 1-800-981-2737 (toll free) TTY: (787) 474-3389. In the cases of insured with private medical plans, consult with them.
▪If you are a beneficiary of the Medicaid Program and have received this type of approach for testing or supplies for COVID-19, write to: [email protected] or you can call 787-342-5520 or 787-721-2900 extensions 1551, 1560, 1561 or 1559.