A reader: My mother recently passed away. I have been so busy taking care of her estate. It is just overwhelming. Today, I received a bill in the mail from her health insurance company. The documentation shows that someone filled a prescription in my mother’s name AFTER she died. What do I do now?
Action Line: Please accept my condolences for your loss. I understand how hard it is to get through the process. Unfortunately, scammers will even use obituaries for ID theft. If your mother was a Medicare recipient, you can call the Office of Inspector General (800) 447-8477 or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at (800) 633-4227. You will also want to contact the insurance company that sent you the documentation.
Many types of medical scams are on the rise. ID theft happens when someone uses your information, or in this case your mother’s, to purchase a prescription. I would contact the police as well. They could be filling the prescription so that they can sell the drugs on the street. The pharmacy that filled the prescription may have video of the scammer. So notify everyone involved and make sure your mother’s Medicare benefits are secure and cannot be compromised again.
Other forms of medical ID theft that are becoming more common are door-to-door selling of medical equipment. “We’ll get you a free wheelchair, all you have to do is give us your Medicare information.” Some ID thieves have even used stolen IDs to have surgical procedures done. When that happens, information could be added to your health record and it could jeopardize your ability to get medical care and insurance benefits.
The Federal Trade Commission advises that if you think you are a victim, you have the right to get copies of your current medical files from each health care provider, though you may have to pay for them. You also have a right to have inaccurate or incomplete information removed. Learn more about your rights under federal law at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, www.hhs.gov. If a health care provider refuses, you can file a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights. Many hospitals have ombudsmen or patient advocates who also can help.
• Do not carry personal information with you like Social Security cards, credit cards, Medicare cards and other personal information with you unless you intend to use it that day.
• Do not give your information to anyone that you don’t know.
• If someone calls saying that they are from the government or your doctor’s office and they want personal information, tell them you will call them back at the number that you know really belongs to the people you do business with.
• You should always make sure that any new providers are Medicare-approved. You can get that information by calling (800) 633-4227 and for TTY user (877) 486-2048.
• You can also contact the FTC to file a complaint atwww.ftc.gov
or (877) 382-4357 and for TTY users, (866) 653-4261.
• When you receive explanations of benefits from your insurance company, read them. Make sure you understand them and the benefits listed were actually for you.