Medical ID Theft Can Happen to Anyone

Mar 13, 2013
Anyone can be a target of healthcare scams. Don't let yourself become a victim. Learn how to protect yourself from Medical ID theft.

A few days ago, I came across an article about yet another healthcare scam – this one related to the Affordable Care Act. Con artists posing as federal employees are calling consumers who have supposedly been selected to receive health insurance cards and asking for personal information – such as name, address and bank account number – before the cards can be mailed to them.

It's easy to fall prey to such scams. Most people don’t really think they could be targets of a scam like that and may not have their guard up. I work on the front line of fighting prescription-drug fraud as part of the Express Scripts Fraud, Waste & Abuse team. You would think that I would be the least likely to be a victim. Yet recently, I almost was.

I received a call on my cell phone from someone claiming to be calling for a family member who had been in an accident and had to be taken to the hospital. The call was from Florida and I have family there. Naturally, I was concerned and wanted to help. The man told me he needed my credit card information to pay for the hospital and other services because my family member was unable to do so themselves. Like most people in that situation, my first reaction was emotional.

I almost did give him my credit card information. But then my professional instincts kicked in. I started asking questions. Where exactly was he calling from? What hospital was it? What kind of accident? I got evasive answers.

In the meantime, I also did some online research. It was a national scam, just like the one mentioned in the article.

Once my caller realized I wasn’t going to be an easy target, he hung up. The lesson for me – and that I hope to convey – is to be constantly alert and listen to your gut. Given my close call, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some tips on how to protect yourself from medical ID theft that I had previously shared here.

Guard your card: Protect your medical identification card at all times, and keep it in a safe and secure location. Some healthcare companies, including Express Scripts, have fraud, waste and abuse programs in place to identify fake or forged prescriptions and other signs of fraudulent activities. If your card is lost or stolen, immediately alert your insurance company.

Toss with caution: When throwing away prescription bottles or vials, remove the labels or black out your personal information so it is illegible. When throwing away documents with protected health information on it, shred the documents instead of discarding them in the garbage.

Protect your personal information: Be alert to impersonators or email phishing scams asking you for your personal information, and never give out your passwords over the phone, on the Internet or through email. If you are unsure, call the company directly to inquire about the request.

Be privy to privacy policies: Before agreeing to the privacy policies of anyone you do business with, read through their policies in detail to completely understand how your personal information will be used. If you have questions, request more information.

Lock up your bottles: Keep your prescription bottles hidden or locked away, especially during the holiday season when you may have an increase in visitors who will have access to your personal belongings.

Read your EOB statements: It's important to carefully read explanation of benefits (EOB) statements you receive from your health plan after treatment to make sure the services listed are accurate. Review the name of the provider, the date of service and the service provided. If it includes information that does not look familiar, immediately report it to your health plan provider.

There are several reliable sources to get information about known current scams, including the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer blog. You can also sign up to receive scam alerts or report a suspected scam. You also can send us a tip about suspected prescription-drug fraud through the Express Scripts fraud reporting hotline.

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