Watch out for phony medical bills and debt collectors
If you get an unexpected message saying you owe money for medical services, think twice before you make a payment. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker has received reports about phony medical bills and collections departments.
How this scam works: You receive a letter or a call informing you that you owe money on a medical bill. If you follow up, the “billing department” will insist that you need to pay immediately. If you don’t, you will allegedly face consequences, such as fines, damage to your credit score or even jail time. Eager to settle your debts, you provide your credit or debit card number. But before you pay, the scammer will ask you to confirm your name, address and other sensitive information, which might include your Social Security or bank account number.
This scam has several versions. In some cases, the bills and medical services are entirely fabricated. For example, one person told BBB Scam Tracker that they “received a medical bill for $500 for Covid testing that supposedly occurred in VA in January. I did a quick look into the business website and the site wasn’t even registered/live until May. I was also out of state (in CA) when it claims I got tested.”
No matter what pretense the scam uses, giving scammers your personal details puts you at risk for identity theft. Plus, any money you pay them might be lost for good.
Read the full alert for another example of this scam at https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/28739-bbb-scam-alert-how-to-stay-safe-when-paying-medical-bills?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=full%20alert%20for%20another%20example%20of%20this%20scam&utm_campaign=scam-alert
How to avoid similar scams:
- Verify the claims. If someone claims you owe money, ask for the details. Any legitimate collections company should be able to tell you to whom you owe money and when you received services. Consider it a red flag if they aren’t forthcoming with this information. In any case, it’s a good idea to hang up and contact your doctor’s office, hospital billing department or insurance company directly and find out if you really do owe money.
- Look up the customer service number. Do an internet search for the phone number that contacted you or the customer service number on the letter you received. The number should be registered to an official business associated with your doctor or hospital. If it isn’t, consider it a red flag. Keep an eye out for reports from others who identify the number as part of a scam.
For more information: Read about a similar scam in BBB Tip: Healthcare scams are after your personal information at https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/16916-bbb-tip-healthcare-scams?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BBB%20Tip%3A%20Healthcare%20scams&utm_campaign=scam-alert
Before you call customer support, read about fake customer support numbers at https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/18132-scam-alert-need-help-be-careful-which-number-you-call?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=fake%20customer%20support%20numbers&utm_campaign=scam-alert