Situations like the COVID-19 pandemic can bring out the best in many people, but unfortunately, they can also bring out the worst in others.
There has been a recent increase in the number of scammers trying to trick people into sharing personal information through phone calls, emails, text messages, social media, and even door-to-door visits.
You may think you won’t be fooled, but scammers have practice taking advantage of a person’s insecurities. One common technique they use is called “phishing” to convince you their offer is legitimate.
“Free” Offers Are Almost Never Free
Be wary of anyone who contacts you to offer things like COVID-19 test kits, supplies, medications, or treatments for “free” or at “no cost” to you.
If you provide protected health information — like your Social Security Number and health insurance member number — a scammer may use it to commit medical identity theft by submitting claims to receive payments from your health plan without your consent.
If you aren’t sure about what’s being offered, don’t agree to anything until you do two things: First, check with your doctor; second, review your Independence Blue Cross (Independence) health plan benefit materials to understand what’s covered.
Independence members can get coverage information and review claims 24/7 through their secure member account at ibx.com. You can also visit ibx.com/covid19 for more information about COVID-19 care and services available to Independence members.
Understand Your Health Plan Benefits
There are several new schemes to be on the lookout for. For example, the Federal Trade Commission warns that scammers are offering products or equipment they claim can treat or cure COVID-19, such as air purifiers and ultraviolet lights.
Items like these may be considered durable medical equipment (DME). DME is used to help people complete daily activities or to treat certain medical conditions and illnesses. However, under Independence medical policy, DME is not covered unless a member receives a prescription from a provider.
If someone sends you products or equipment that aren’t covered under your health plan, you could be stuck paying out of pocket for something you didn’t ask for and may not need. Even if equipment is covered, if the DME provider is not in your Independence health plan network, you could be balance billed for the difference between the amount paid by your health plan and the provider’s charges, which can be significant.
If you have additional questions, call customer service at the number on the back of your Independence member ID card.
Preventing Health Care Fraud Requires Action
Although you may not be a victim, health care fraud should concern you because it drives up the cost of health insurance for everyone. Independence and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association are committed to fighting health care fraud, waste, and abuse and safeguarding members’ protected health information.
Here are a few ways you can stop COVID-19 scammers in their tracks:
- Never give out personal information. Don’t be pressured to provide your Social Security Number and Independence health plan number to anyone — especially if it’s someone you don’t know and didn’t ask to contact you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re contacted by phone, you have the right to ask for a caller’s title, the name of the company he or she represents, and a contact number. Armed with this information, you can do some research to find out if the call is legitimate.
- Speak up by reporting health care fraud. Scammers are skilled at getting people to provide protected health information. If you suspect you are a victim of health care fraud, don’t be embarrassed to report it to Independence right away. When you speak up, you can help stop someone else from becoming a victim, too. You can file a report online or call Independence toll-free at 1-866-282-2707 (TTY: 711). All reports are confidential.
- Be an informed consumer. Always review your explanation of benefits from Independence and provider bills carefully. Check the dates of service, provider names, and services provided. If you don’t recognize a provider name or see claims listed for services or products you didn’t receive, call customer service at the number on the back of your Independence member ID card.
Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You are always in control: If a phone call, email, or text makes you suspicious, it’s OK to hang up or hit delete!