Learn to protect yourself from DME fraud and medical identity theft.
We’ve covered the dangers and necessary defenses against various scams, including romance scams, supply chain scams, financial scams, lottery scams, and vishing scams, but now we turn our attention to what could be the most personal and invasive of scams – the medical scam.
But wait, you might think, wouldn’t ROMANCE scams be the most personal and invasive? To that, we would beg to differ. While romance scams do prey on matters of the heart, medical scams prey on matters of life or death. Your health care, your prescriptions, your treatments, even your diagnoses, are at risk. These scams are particularly unethical in that they take advantage of people dependent on medical help and support. There are two main scams in this category – the medical equipment scam and the medical identity theft scam.
There is big business in durable medical equipment (DME) fraud. DME encompasses wheelchairs, walkers, braces, and other devices prescribed by doctors to help patients deal with injury or illness at home.
Fraudsters take advantage of this industry by leveraging the personal information of unsuspecting patients to steal from Medicare. The way they do this is by contacting patients and tricking them into ordering DME by, for instance, telling them they’re eligible for a free device. The scammers then get the users’ health care information and proceed to use it to file false claims, sticking Medicare with the bill for costly devices that, according to AARP, are not medically necessary, not properly prescribed, and typically not delivered to patients at all.
In December 2021, the owners of two Texas DME companies were sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for a kickback conspiracy that generated false claims costing Medicare $27 million. These are big scams that make big money.
The other popular scam is medical identity theft. This is when scammers use your personal information to get treatments, prescriptions, medical devices, or other benefits under your name. A big problem here is that these fraudulent claims go on your medical record and can impact any real treatments you’re receiving.
Medical identity theft is on the rise, as cases reported to the FTC rose from 6,800 in 2017 to 43,000 in 2021. On the dark web, medical profiles fetch as much as $1,000 each, whereas Social Security numbers go for about $1 each and credit card numbers get up to about $30 each.
How do the scammers get your information? According to experts, it can be through any number of dirty tricks: imposter scams, phishing, data breaches, fake offers for medical freebies, even going through your mail or your trash. This category also encompasses “friendly fraud,” where a relative or friend uses your information.
Follow these tips to recognize and avoid both types of medical scams described above.
Protect yourself from these scams and, even more importantly, share this information with anyone in your circle who may be vulnerable to such tricks. Learn more from the FTC’s Consumer Advice on medical identity theft.
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