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Warning of COVID-19 Scams

Date: 03/27/20


Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a consumer safety advisory, warning New Mexican consumers of various scams related to the coronavirus outbreak. This advisory comes in the wake of many reports to the Office of the Attorney General of consumer price gouging and COVID-19 scams emerging in New Mexico.

“We must protect the health and safety of New Mexican families during this emergency, and that includes protecting them from fraud and abuse when they are most vulnerable,” said Attorney General Balderas. “My office will prosecute anyone who breaks the law and takes advantage of vulnerable New Meixcans.”

Attorney General Balderas encourages all consumers to be especially vigilant during this time and to be aware of the following:

COVID-19 Hotline Scam

There are several phishing scams where the caller impersonates a representative from the COVID-19 Hotline or other medical entity. The scammer is asking for person information like your SSN or date of birth and telling callers they must have that information in order to release COVID-19 testing results. You will NEVER be asked for your social security number. Any confirmation of a positive COVID-19 swab test will be made by the clinic where you were seen or the New Mexico Department of Health.

Fundraising Scams

If anyone asks you for a donation to a coronavirus-related charity, do your homework before donating. Visit the Attorney General’s Charities webpage to search for legitimate charities and do not donate to anyone asking for cash, gift cards, or for money to be sent to them via wire transfer.

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The New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance cautions consumers who have subscribed, or are considering subscribing to health benefit plans offered by Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSM) that these are not authorized health insurance plans. A HCSM may use marketing practices that suggest its plans include the protections found in approved health insurance plans. However, that may not be correct.

These plans may be less expensive than a regulated major medical plan. They may also appear to provide the benefits and protections that a major medical plan is required to provide under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and other health insurance regulations. In reality, though, a HCSM plan is an unauthorized insurance product that likely will not provide the protections of an authorized, regulated, and ACA compliant major medical plan.

Consumers should be aware of the following regarding HCSM plans:

  • They do NOT comply with the ACA, even if their materials say they do.
  • Many HCSM plans specifically state that they do not guarantee payment for any health care and the member is ultimately responsible for anything the ministry does not pay. This important notification may be obscured or buried in fine print.
  • They typically have restrictions or exclusions on pre-existing conditions, leaving the member uncovered and responsible for the health care costs for treatment of those conditions.
  • Often such programs do not provide mental health coverage or substance use disorder treatment.
  • Members may also be subject to religious or moral restrictions from the sharing ministry, which may leave members responsible for the full costs of health care that result from an activity the ministry does not agree with.
  • Health care providers (doctors, hospitals) are under no obligation to accept or honor discounts from these programs if there is no contract or agreement to do so.

Full Press Release (PDF)