With the beginning of spring comes warmer weather, rain showers and flowers blooming. With flowers comes pollen which causes millions of Americans to suffer from severe allergies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Pollen.com reports that the top allergens affecting consumers across the North Alabama region are oak, juniper and sycamore with pollen counts as extremely high since the beginning of March. With allergy season in full swing, seeking a free health screening for diagnosis is not uncommon. However, scammers have been using these free screenings as bait to steal sensitive personal information from unsuspecting victims.
How the Scam Works
You show up for your free health screening and the representative asks you to fill out a sign-in sheet. This sheet asks for standard information, such as your name, address and phone number. However, it also requests sensitive information such as your Medicare or Social Security number. In some versions, “health company reps” claim that your health plan will cover the cost and send you the results. All you need to do is provide your government issued ID and health plan information.
Don’t fall for it! Scammers may go through the motions of the health screening – such as taking your blood pressure or cholesterol levels — only to use your personal information later. Scammers can use this information to bill your insurance for thousands of dollars’ worth of tests, gain access to your personal genetic information and/or to simply steal your identity.
Protect Yourself from Free Health Screening Scams
- Guard your personal information carefully. Never give your medical insurance ID number, Social Security number, or banking information to strangers.
- It is illegal to accept anything of value in exchange for medical services. Never trade personal information for “free” tests.
- Don’t consent to lab tests without direct orders from your doctor. Protect yourself and your health insurance benefits.
- Keep a close eye on correspondence from your medical insurance provider. Inform your provider right away if you notice any unauthorized changes or charges.
Learn more about how to protect yourself from Medicare fraud at Medicare.gov.
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pollen.com and BBB.org