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By Kristine Tomzik, Privacy OfficerNorthShore University HealthSystem
We’ve all heard about a friend or family member getting tricked—over the phone or online—into disclosing personal information.
Unfortunately, scammers continue to up their game and get more creative. Increasingly, patients are becoming a prime target.
Medicare and other health insurance phone scams, genetic testing scams, and patient portal email scams are common healthcare specific scams that patients should be aware of. Never provide unknown callers any personal information. If you think the call or email is suspicious, call your doctor’s office to verify whether or not the call is real.
Review the important tips below to help you avoid becoming a victim of one of these scams.Healthcare Phone Scams
Scammers may call you claiming to be representatives or agents from health insurance companies, Medicare, survey companies, and other healthcare providers, such as durable medical equipment companies. They may ask you to:
Real Medicare representatives will not call you and ask you for your Social Security and Medicare numbers or assist you in finding a cheaper Medicare plan.
If you receive one of these calls, you can report it to Medicare by calling 800.633.4227 or to your health insurance customer service department by calling the telephone number listed on the back of your insurance card.Patient Portal Email Scams
Scammers may send you an email telling you that you have an important unread NorthShoreConnect, NCH MyChart or a generic “MyChart” message. The email will not tell you to access the message through the patient portal. Rather, the email will have a fake direct link for you to click to get into the patient portal.
Here’s why you should NOT click on the link:
Legitimate email messages from NorthShoreConnect or NCH MyChart will direct you to access your message by going through the patient portal, but you should always inspect email links before clicking on them.
If you have any questions or are suspicious the email may not be real, check with your doctor’s office. However, do not call a doctor’s phone number listed at the bottom of the email. Scammers have been known to buy a phone number that may be one digit off from your doctor’s real phone number to trap you. Genetic Testing Scam
Scammers will call you from a “genetic testing lab” and tell you your doctor has ordered genetic testing for you or ask you if you would like free genetic testing. They may send a genetic testing kit to your home.
The “genetic testing lab” or mailed test kit will ask you to provide personal information, including your Social Security number, health insurance information, including Medicare number, and medical information. Once you give this information, the scammers may use it to commit identity theft and healthcare fraud. If the claim for genetic testing is denied, you could be responsible for the entire cost of the test which could be thousands of dollars.
If a genetic testing kit is mailed to you, do not accept it unless you know or have verified that your physician has ordered it. Refuse delivery or return it to the sender. Keep a record of the sender’s address and the date you returned the test.
Be suspicious of anyone who offers you a “free genetic test” and then asks you for personal information including your Social Security number, health insurance information, including Medicare number, and/or your medical informationBe suspicious of any unsolicited requests for your personal information including Social Security number, health insurance information, including Medicare number, and medical information.
Always check with your doctor to verify if genetic testing has been ordered for you. NorthShore University HealthSystem takes its responsibility to keep your medical information confidential and secure. We are alerting you of these scams as hospitals and physician offices around the country are also being targeted.
Additional information about how you can protect yourself against these types of scams can be found in the AARP Cyber Safety Handbook.
If you are a victim of a scam, file an identity theft report with your local police station and the Federal Trade Commission, contact your financial institutions, the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and call Medicare at 800.633.4227 or your health insurance company to report the scam and request a new Medicare card.
You should also report the scam to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, at 800.447.8477 or submit a fraud report.