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How to avoid being tricked by scammers when paying for medical bills


ORLANDO, Fla. —A trip to the hospital often results in multiple bills coming at different times from different providers.

It can be confusing, and scammers are using that to their advantage.

Baby registries and social media accounts are all places where personal information can be made public and that makes people a target for being scammed.

In modern medicine, a patient goes in for a procedure like a C-section, and months later, they can get bills not only from the hospital where they had the procedure done but the individual physicians, anesthesiologists, and nurses who cared for them.

That could leave room for anyone with your personal information to possibly scam you.

"Certainly, anytime a consumer receives a bill that they weren't expecting, no matter the dollar amount, it can be alarming. Oftentimes, they will reach out for help in understanding or decode those bills," Holly Salmons said.

Salmons, with the Better Business Bureau, hasn't seen the issue with medical bills in Central Florida, but scams in general are on the rise.

It seems scammers are always finding new ways to trick people, and when it comes to paying a bill, Salmons says it's important to ask questions first.

"Anytime you are going in to see a physician for treatment or diagnostics, you want to make sure you ask upfront for a prior authorization. If you do have insurance, also get an estimate up front," Salmons said.

That way, the customer will know what to expect and what their insurance will pay.

But sometimes, even a legitimate medical bill could get paid twice.

That's if the company sent an invoice to both the insurance and the patient and got both parties to pay.

"Make sure that the bill you received in the mail matches up to what they have filed. The next thing you want to do, if you have insurance, is compare it to your EOB or explanation of benefits to make sure that the expenses or the claims have been run through your insurance. If they have not, you may not owe that entire bill," Salmons said.

Attorney Mark NeJame with NeJame Law has represented both scammers and victims of major financial fraud cases.

"It's easy to get a logo from a hospital. If people can counterfeit bills, they can easily counterfeit a letterhead," NeJame said.

NeJame says the scams are often not for thousands of dollars but smaller amounts that may fly under the radar, and for people who just want to get their bills paid, they may not question it and just pay.

"Now more than ever, the scams have become so complex that law enforcement is always trying to stay one step ahead. They're lucky if they're one step behind," NeJame said.

And even if you file a complaint for being scammed, the problem is finding the perpetrators.

Many of them are doing business offshore — making the cost to catch them and hold them accountable not worth it.

That's why NeJame says you should never pay a bill blindly.

Do your homework, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

© 2024, , Hearst Television Inc. on behalf of WESH-TV

Source: WESH 2 News

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