Communications Recommendations for Medicaid Agencies to Help Identify and Report Scams
Mark Alves and Kevin Caudill, GMMB
As states continue to undertake the unwinding of the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement and redetermining their enrollees, states across the country have reported scams asking consumers for financial or personal information are prevalent. This expert perspective provides recommendations on what state communications and digital teams can do to mitigate online scams and protect official sources of information.
How to Identify an Online Medicaid Scam
States should look out for domains that are misspellings or close variations of recognized organizations. Sites that require money upfront for information about Medicaid are likely fraudulent. Trustworthy sites are usually on secure servers as shown by the lock icon. They also often have a favicon in the browser tab, which is a little square icon that matches the brand. Example below:
Scams often include typos and inconsistencies. Look for signs of poor quality, such as: awkward language, as if from a poor translation; spelling mistakes; suspicious popups or excessive urgency in the language; lack of an “About Us” section or contact information. Sites that require payment or a social security number to access or to receive information may be fraudulent.
To know if a website is safe, copy the URL from the search results (but do not visit the site directly) and paste the URL into Google’s safe browsing tool to see if Google has found any issues, and the URL Void site checker. The Better Business Bureau has more information and resources on their site on how to identify a fake website.
Scams and Search Results
If scams are coming up in search results, there are several ways to respond. If it is outright fraud, report it to search engines and legal authorities. If a site has copied large sections of your state’s content—and the content is copyrighted—file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request through Bing or Google (for Google, an email address connected to a Google account, which doesn’t have to be a Gmail account specifically, is required. Thus, states may want to do this through a department or official account, rather than a personal account). States should also notify the host and/or organization of the site. States can look up the host or organization at https://sitechecker.pro/hosting-checker/.
In the example below, the site uses hosting platforms such as Cloudflare and WP Engine.
To notify the hosting company, states can report to the hosting company’s takedown pages. For example, Cloudflare has a page at: https://developers.cloudflare.com/fundamentals/get-started/basic-tasks/report-abuse/, and the WP Engine page can be found at: https://wpengine.com/legal/dmca-takedown-request/. To find other hosting companies’ reporting sites, search for “[hosting company name]” + DMCA, to find their takedown form.
Reporting Online Scams
Search engines allow users to report scams, and this is an effective first step to take. Google’s site reporting page lists their various forms for reporting here in one place. Microsoft features an unsafe site reporter as well.
Medicaid agencies should also report potential scams to legal authorities. These include the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s internet crime reporting site. The Federal Trade Commission hosts a fraud reporting site as well. Additionally, Medicaid agencies can work with state agency partners including the Attorney General’s office or consumer protection agency.
Medicaid scams are an unfortunate reality in some states and will likely continue throughout the unwinding and renewal process in the coming months. To combat scams, states can take steps to optimize websites in search results and remain vigilant to report fraudulent websites and, ensure that official information sources are prioritized. For more information on optimizing websites in search results, see State Health and Value Strategies’ expert perspective, Google Announces Medicaid Renewal Feature: What State Agencies Need to Know. States can also refer to the template messages and social graphics alerting consumers about scams in both English and Spanish on Social Press Kit.