Scammers never rest. Even when the government and financial institutions take added measures for protecting consumers against fraud, scammers are dreaming up new ways to con you out of your money – and your identity.
In the latest wave of identity theft, scammers are cashing in on Medicare’s extra level of protection. In order to help prevent ID theft, Medicare is replacing the Social Security numbers that had appeared on its old cards with an 11-digit code. The new cards aren’t in circulation yet. They will be mailed out within the next 13 months, but scammers are already using them for a new variation of identity theft.
Here’s how the scam works:
A caller pretending to be a Medicare representative will ask for payment in exchange for the new ID. Alternatively, the caller might claim to need the victim’s medical information to send out their new card. In reality, though, the cards are free and will be mailed automatically.
In another variation, a caller will wrongly insist that the victim must purchase Medicare’s prescription drug coverage or risk losing all coverage.
In another ruse not limited to Medicare members, the caller asks for the victim’s checking account number and Social Security number to deposit a supposed refund from their insurer.
Once the scammer has the victim’s medical information, though, they can:
- Pose as the victim to see a doctor,
- Obtain prescriptions,
- File a false health claim.
Don’t be the next victim!
Here’s what you need to know about medical identity theft.
The average medical identity theft costs $13,500 to fix, but can affect other areas of life and home, such as:
1.) Loss of health coverage
Scammers might max out your benefit limits, leaving you with no coverage.
2.) Ruined credit history
Scammers can destroy your credit history by racking up hospital bills in your name and then disappearing.
3.) False medical records
When the scammer receives treatment in your name, it’s documented on your medical records. This can be extremely dangerous when you seek medical attention in the future.
4.) Higher premiums
The scammer’s medical activity may cause your premiums to rise.
Preventing Medical Scams
Take proactive steps to ensure you’re not the next victim.
- Know that Medicare will never call you. They always contact members via mail.
- Be wary of suspicious-looking bills from third-party providers. If you receive any, alert your insurer immediately.
- Study your Explanation of Benefits (EOB). If you spot treatments you don’t remember receiving, notify your provider.
- Check your medical records regularly for suspicious doctor visits, prescriptions or maladies.
- Review your credit history often. If you see unfamiliar charges, immediately ask for a fraud alert and place a freeze on your credit.
Fixing your Medical History
If you spot an error on your medical records, it’s crucial that you correct it so it doesn’t affect your medical treatment in the future. Send a copy of the documents detailing the discrepancy to every medical professional and facility involved in your care.
If you’ve been victimized by medical identity theft, be sure to report it!
Alert the FTC using their website at ftc.gov, or at 1-877-438-4338.
If you are a member of Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE or visit Medicare.gov. Alternately, report the scam to your own insurance provider.
Your Turn: Have you had to repair damages caused by medical identity theft? Share your experience with us in the comments!
« Return to "Matadors Money Matters Blog"