All fraud can put your wealth in danger. Medical identity theft, in extreme cases, can do worse.
When scammers use a victim’s insurance information, Social Security number, or other details to file false claims, secure prescription drugs, or receive medical care themselves, their actions not only could sap a bank account or weaken a credit score, they could also corrupt medical records. This puts the victim’s health directly at risk – medical professionals may prescribe treatment based on inaccurate information, or insurance companies may deny needed care for similar reasons.
A recent fraud alert from the VA’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI describes what this fraud could look like to a VA beneficiary: They may receive an appointment reminder for a visit they didn’t request, or paperwork for a service not received. Other tip-offs to identity theft extend beyond the VA system – victims may notice inaccuracies in their medical records or insurance explanation of benefits; or they may find out about these inaccuracies when they’re denied insurance or receive unexpected bills or medical products.
So, how do you stay safe? Here are seven tips from the VA and FBI, as well as other federal sources:
- Lock Down Your Docs. Keep medical and insurance documentation, including prescription bottles, in a secure place.
- ‘Free’ Care Can Cost You. Scammers may promise no-cost care or materials, but only if the intended victim provides insurance or Medicare information. Hang up the phone or delete the email.
- Read, Read, Read. Check every explanation of benefits carefully to ensure it reflects the right care from the right doctor on the right date.
- Check Your Balance. Monitor credit card statements for medical billing mistakes or unexpected charges, and regularly review credit reports for medical debt collection notices.
- Know Your Contacts. Don’t provide insurance information or other personal details to unknown individuals, even if they claim to represent Medicare or the VA or a similar institution.
- Think Before You Click. Avoid accessing your online medical information via links in emails, which can direct users to fake sites used to steal information. Instead, bookmark the insurance company’s login page or provider’s homepage and reach the account via a trusted entrance.
- Report It. VA-related identity theft claims can be reported via this link or by calling (800) 488-8244. Other complaints can be reported via the FBI’s electronic tip form.
MOAA Can Help
Want more? Check out the following MOAA.org resources for facing down frauds of all types:
- From our financial and benefits expert: Protect Yourself From These 5 Common Fraud Schemes
- Three-part series: Don’t Be Scammed
- Recorded webinars (available to Premium and Life members): An Overview of Scams and Frauds | Outsmart the Scammers: How to Spot and Avoid Financial Fraud | Protecting Yourself From Cybercrime and Scams
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