Scammers and thieves thrive in times of panic, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created fertile ground for fraud. According to PR Newswire, cases of identity theft have already risen since March when the COVID-19 crisis began taking root across the country. In just 2017, the median loss for health care fraud offenses was over $1 million.
From stolen federal stimulus payments to scammers taking advantage of medical billing, there are several ways you could be at risk for medical identity theft. To help you reduce the risk of falling victim to identity thieves and fraudsters, here are a few tips you can use to stay secure.
Keep an eye out for phishing
Essential workers are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and so it makes sense that COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claims have jumped since 2020’s first quarter. If you’ve filed for workers’ compensation and you were granted temporary disability benefits, you’re entitled to two-thirds of your average earnings while you recover. Scammers know this and will try to take advantage of you, making phone calls that appear to come from government entities or your own workplace.
Keep an eye out for emails that appear to be legitimate and may be phishing for your information. Don’t open attachments until the email has been confirmed as legitimate as these attachments may contain malware.
Watch out for fraudulent medical billing
Many doctors’ offices and hospitals have seen a surge in patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’ve recently been to the doctor’s, an urgent care center, or the hospital, make sure to double-check your medical bill for unnecessary expenses.
One of the most common types of fraudulent medical billing is when the cost is listed on the bill for a more expensive service than the one that was provided. For instance, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, over 50 million people in the U.S. have acne. If you receive a bill from your dermatologist listing the cost of a therapy that wasn’t performed or is more expensive than the one that was performed, it’s worth contacting the dermatologist’s office to have them read out and explain each part of the bill so you’re only paying for the treatments and services you actually used.
Check your accounts frequently
The best way you can protect yourself against fraudsters is by checking your bank accounts and credit card accounts frequently for unauthorized payments and suspicious activity. The faster you narrow down identity theft, the faster you can close those accounts and prevent fraudsters from hurting your finances even more.
If your identity has been stolen and used to cash your stimulus check or to apply for unemployment, make sure that you file a report with the relevant local or federal authorities.