Fall 2015 Fraud News

Tax fraud during the tax season.

Fraud these days isn’t limited to credit and cash. It’s also touching healthcare, with instances of insurance hacking on the rise. Insurance companies house a lot of information about their customers, from health records all the way to employment information such as job title and salary and even details about family members. And that amount of data is very valuable to hackers, who, instead of stealing a credit card number and making a couple of purchases, can now use the information to create entire credit card accounts and more.

In the case of medical ID theft, hackers sell the stolen information to people who don’t have medical insurance. Posing as the victim (and able to provide the social security number, date of birth, and address), the purchaser is able to get healthcare, medications, and medical devices, and the victim is on the hook for the bill, which could be staggering.

Here are some signs that your medical identity might have been stolen:

  • You are sent a bill for medical services you didn’t receive
  • You get a call from a debt collector about a medical debt you know nothing about
  • You see a collections notice on your credit report for medical expenses you never incurred
  • You are denied insurance coverage because your health record indicates a preexisting condition you don’t have
  • Your insurance company notifies you that you’ve reached your benefit limit when you’ve barely touched the benefits

If you suspect that your medical identity is in someone else’s hands, you have some recourse. To start, get copies of your medical records and review them for errors. Review all of your EOB (explanation of benefits) forms from your insurance company. Also request from them an annual summary of all benefits paid. Ask for any corrections that need to be made.

If this is a Medicare related fraud, contact the Office of the Inspector General. Consider also contacting all three credit bureaus to place a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit. Finally, contact the FTC to report the identity theft on their online complaint form, and then keep a copy of the theft affidavit for your records. All of this will take some time and effort, to be sure, but the alternative—having your stolen identity wreaking more havoc—would be worse.

Tax fraud during the tax season.

College students, beware. You might think you’re immune to the Nigerian email scam or other frauds often committed against senior citizens, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely under the radar. You could be susceptible to "card cracking", a fraud perpetrated chiefly against people your age often by people your age.

Here’s how it works: The con artist appears on a college campus and tells a student a convincing story, such as having lost a debit card and needing to cash a check. The scammer offers the victim a payment in return for access to the victim’s account under the pretense of cashing that check. By the time it’s discovered that the check is counterfeit, the scammer is long gone with the victim’s account information as well as some cash.

But that’s not the half of it. Many scammers have taken to showing up at campus parties and throwing cash around to convince students they have lots of funds. Or they use social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to contact students to set up fraudulent deals. Or they claim to have tuition scholarships. For any of those scenarios, they instruct the victims to provide their debit cards and PINs in exchange for a cut of the money they claim to have or as a step to complete the scholarship application. Then the scammers deposit fake checks into the students’ accounts and just as quickly remove the funds. The problem is that, not only have the students been made willing accessories to bank fraud, they are now responsible for the missing funds.

This then creates a cycle of problems for the victims. They are now in debt, which can lead to years of credit issues, and they potentially have a criminal mark on their record, which could make gaining employment difficult. To try to avoid those repercussions, it’s important to remember some basic protection rules.

  • Don’t respond to online offers of “easy money.” The scammers might use convincing language like “quick, safe way to earn cash,” but this will rarely be legal. If you see a post that has a suspicious offer, report it to the social media site.
  • Don’t share your account information or PIN. Keep your debit card secure, use hard-to-guess passwords and PINs, and be sure not to auto-fill your password or account information on your mobile device or computer.
  • Don’t file a false “lost or stolen card” claim with your bank. Once you do that, you become an accomplice to the crime and could face prosecution and potential jail time. 

For more information about Card Cracking, visit the ABA website.