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Health officials warn of COVID-19 scams

The Maui News

The state Department of Health is warning of growing COVID-19 scams targeting kupuna and other Hawaii residents.

Scammers usually send phone and text messages demanding people to call back to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for money. In a recent call from Jamaica to a Hawaii resident, a caller falsely claimed the vaccine will be available only for three months for $1,000, according to a news release last week from the department.

“All COVID-19 vaccinations are free,” Health Director Dr. Libby Char said. “At no time should anyone pay for the vaccine. Everyone, including kupuna, will eventually have an opportunity to receive their vaccine.”

Norma Kop, director of Senior Medicare Patrol Hawaii, urged people to stay vigilant as scammers ramp up their schemes “with seemingly legitimate offers.”

“We encourage residents to refrain from responding to communication from an unknown number, email or unfamiliar location to protect themselves from bogus COVID-19 vaccine offers, especially those asking to verify one’s peronal information, such as Medicare or Medicaid numbers, to receive health care benefits,” Kop said.

The organization, which assists beneficiaries, their families and caregivers to detect health care fraud, errors and abuse, offered other reminders to help residents spot red flags:

• No one can pay to “jump ahead of the line” and receive earlier access to a vaccination.

• No one who calls from the Hawaii Department of Health or its trusted partners concerning the COVID-19 vaccination will ask for a Social Security, bank account, credit card number or related personal information.

• Legitimate authorities do not ask for payment in exchange for the vaccine; residents should just hang up.

The department also encouraged people to always safeguard their personal information, health care-related numbers, financial information and related identifiers.

To voice a concern or to file a complaint, contact SMP Hawaii at info@smphawaii .org or (808) 586-7281. On Neighbor Islands, call toll free at (800) 296-9422.

For more information about stopping health care fraud or to volunteer, visit www.smp hawaii.org.

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