This spring, particularly March and April, has been a true rollercoaster ride thanks to COVID-19. As we reported last month, the global quarantine measures slowed in-person inquiries and site visits in most regions. Our investigators responded to this challenge by developing new methods to gather and verify needed information. Their unflagging efforts have been remarkable.

And now we are in the beginning of June, and the coronavirus is still with us, but there are glimmers of hope. Many countries are lifting lockdown measures and easing travel restrictions. We’re seeing registries and government offices opening to the public and accepting in-person inquiries. Hospitals are still focused on coronavirus patients; however, many are resuming administrative services, including opening their record-keeping departments. In other words, our investigators are able to resume their normal procedures in many locations.

However, this doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. Lockdowns may be easing, but we’re seeing coronavirus-related death claims increasing. In addition, we’re also encountering more claimants using COVID-19 restrictions to justify their inability to provide proper evidence for reported deaths.

We expect to see more of these attempts at evasion as the pandemic continues and the world begins to right itself post-COVID-19. Diligence International Groups is always one step ahead, and our team has been preparing and establishing protocols to spot and prevent coronavirus-related potential fraud occurrences.

Record-keeping during COVID-19: The truth

Our preparation efforts include sharing accurate information you and your team can use to safeguard against fraudulent medical claims. Understanding how medical and death facilities are maintaining their records is key. Here’s an update on how these organizations are documenting their work.

Patient records. As mentioned above, hospitals around the world continue to prioritize COVID-19 patients and medical emergencies. While some hospitals closed their record-keeping offices or had their staff work from home, this didn’t stop medical record keeping. Healthcare providers and facilities track hospital admissions and patient progress within their systems at all times. Although the ability to obtain these records is subject to each facility’s privacy policies, each record indicates the patient’s condition and length of stay. Furthermore, any patient entering and receiving treatment from a facility will appear in that facility’s records.

Death certificates. Although many registries were unable to respond to verification inquiries or were closed to the public during quarantine, most, if not all, registries are issuing birth and death certificates per usual. For some global locations, this has been or continues to be delayed, however, we’ve found no area that ceased to register deaths or issue death certificates. This means deaths certificates are available and properly recorded despite the pandemic.

Disposition of remains. Remains disposal has become a major issue during this crisis. Many countries only allow cremations, while others continue to allow burials. However, funeral or wake services continue to be banned or postponed due to quarantine measures. Despite these circumstances, cremation and burial certificates are still available. Like hospitals, funeral homes continue their traditional record keeping protocols. The information is there, however, verification may be slow. This also applies to any hospital or private morgues storing remains until burials or funeral services can proceed.

COVID-19-related deaths. Regardless of country or region, hospitals take additional precautions with COVID-19 patients, even after they are pronounced dead. In most countries, patients who die from coronavirus are automatically cremated and relatives are not allowed to view or come in contact with the bodies. The deceased’s families usually receive their ashes in an urn after cremation. Medical records for these patients will indicate they tested positive for and died from COVID-19. This can also be verified with the certifying physician.

Here are specific examples of coronavirus-related death protocols from a few of our regions:

  • In the Philippines, the bodies of COVID-19 victims are cremated within 24 hours of the death. The family is prohibited from holding a wake or viewing. Once the cremation is completed, the ashes are released to the relatives in an urn as there is no longer a risk of contagion.
  • Africa is similar to the Philippines in that remains of COVID-19 victims are not released to the families for burial. The government handles the disposition in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • In Mexico, COVID-19 victims are placed in a biodegradable bag after the death, which is sanitized in an isolation room. The family is not allowed to view the body. If the body is to be buried, it must remain sealed in the bag within the coffin. The coffin must also remain closed during the funeral service (if one is allowed) and at all times.

Stick with the truth, no matter what they claim

Fraudsters are already taking advantage of the confusion and delays the coronavirus brings to medical record keeping and verification, especially in countries where the families receive the remains after cremation. Claimants in these countries will allege they can’t provide proof that a subject is indeed deceased, since the government or hospital handled the disposition. Furthermore, families of COVID-19 victims may also allege they were unable to secure the standard documentation for proof of deaths and funeral proceedings. We know this isn’t always true. The records exist. It’s simply a matter of tracking them down. Diligence’s team of experts have the best tools and strategies to secure this information.

While the number of these claims are expected to rise in the near future, it’s important to be aware that criminals will use the pandemic to support their fraudulent activity. They will use the lack of proper documentation issuance or, that due to the method of disposition, they are unable to verify details as excuses for incomplete claims. Don’t let your guard down. As stated above, most, if not all, countries are maintaining their records, especially for COVID-19 cases. The required information is documented and the truth is out there.

Need more information about COVID-related fraud? Want details on how to spot a potential threat? Our global network of investigators is closely monitoring every country and region. They’re aware of each country’s limitations and can spot red flags. We’re one step ahead and fully prepared to identify and unveil fraudulent claims. Contact us for a free consultation.

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Investigating during COVID-19: The same, but different
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