We’ve all seen those sketchy-looking ads from people claiming to have the cure for cancer or the real solution to weight loss. Others remember getting phone calls or emails telling them their insurance has been compromised and they need to confirm their login information. Whatever form they may take, healthcare scams are designed to take advantage of concerned people and drain their bank accounts. Some of these scams are obvious. However, plenty more are harder to spot.
If a scammer tried to sell you a miracle cure or steal your insurance information, would you understand the problem? Learn to recognize several common healthcare scams with these signs. #MainStreetMedical #MainStreetClinics Click To Tweet
Healthcare fraud takes many forms besides the common identity theft scam. Unsavory characters come up with many creative ways to take your money in exchange for nothing ultimately helpful. Be wary of these common fronts for fraud:
- Rehab scams
- Insurance fraud
- “Government” requests
- Miracle cures
1) Rehab Scams
Rehabilitation is an important step in the recovery process for former addicts. Unfortunately, not nearly enough oversight exists to cover the entire massive rehab industry in the US. Rehab centers run by less than trustworthy individuals can thus get away with a lot of shady or outright illegal activities, all while pocketing their patients’ money or insurance payments. Red flags of a fraudulent treatment center include:
- Impossible promises (such as a 100% success rate)
- Patient bribery (offering rent-free living or expensive gifts like plane tickets in exchange for checking in)
- HIPAA violations (selling patient information to other scammers)
- Biased referrals (posing as a third-party group while actually referring patients to their own rehab facility)
- Overcharging the patients’ insurance (sending the insurance ridiculously high bills for basic services)
- Patient hunting (referring people to a fraudulent center to illegally collect a “commission”)
Suffice to say, the rehab industry needs some work. Take the time to research any rehab facility you may be considering and make sure they aren’t just after your money.
2) Insurance Fraud
Patients may occasionally be contacted about insurance renewals, overdue payments, or similar issues. Messages like this come from the actual provider relatively regularly and, when genuine, are not cause for concern. However, scammers will often impersonate your insurance provider in an attempt to glean your money or personal information. You may experience insurance fraud similar to one of these scenarios:
- Offering a high-priced insurance package that will ostensibly save you a lot of money later on
- Charging you for help when shopping for insurance
- Claiming your insurance or Medicare card is about to expire and you must pay to renew it immediately
Remember that no legitimate person helping you buy insurance can legally charge you for their services. Additionally, don’t believe a cold-caller who tells you your insurance is about to expire. Contact your insurance provider directly and see if your coverage genuinely needs updating. Most importantly, don’t assume that a good-looking insurance package is the best deal! Shop around and read the fine print on everything before making a decision.
Pro Tip: Healthcare scammers often give pushy sales pitches and may get aggressive or even threatening if you refuse their offers. Don’t give in! Legitimate healthcare providers will not make unreasonable demands of you.
3) “Government” Requests
We’re all familiar with the alleged IRS call that claims you have to pay a significant fine or you’ll be arrested. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry has its own equivalent. A scammer will call or email you pretending to be a government official, claiming you have to renew your Medicare card or update your insurance immediately due to legal changes. (This is especially relevant if you have insurance through the Affordable Care Act.)
No government official will ever contact you by phone or email to verify your social security number, insurance information, banking details, or any other sensitive data. Likewise, they will never demand immediate payment. The IRS and similar government agencies almost exclusively use snail mail to inform patients of changes or required updates. A cold caller or random email demanding money right now is never legitimate.
4) Miracle Cures
Finally, some scammers will claim to have a miracle drug, herb, or lifestyle change that will heal just about anything. (The current pandemic has resulted in many examples of this scam.) You may hear promises of dramatic weight loss, cancer cures (or prevention), help healing from addiction, cures for mental disorders, or any manner of suspicious claims. Claims of either “natural” ingredients or fast results can draw desperate people in. Don’t fall for these empty promises! These so-called “miracle cures” are worthless at best and outright dangerous at worst, not to mention drastically expensive. Scammers peddling these cures are only trying to take advantage of desperate people who will try anything to get better. Protect your body and your wallet by talking to your doctor instead.
Some People Don’t Deserve Your Trust
The healthcare industry consists of many interwoven and often confusing components. Insurance, treatments, rehab, and more may seem overwhelming as you try to take care of your body. Remember that one excellent way to protect your own health is learning to recognize and avoid healthcare scams like those discussed above. Cold callers or random people online are after your money, not your long-term health.