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Q&A: Spotting And Preventing Healthcare ID Scams

Misuse of identification documents is a growing concern for healthcare providers, as both individuals and organized fraud rings are using sophisticated schemes to defraud hospitals and doctors. The Healthcare Professionals Section spoke with Linda Webb, an experienced fraud investigator in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and President of insurance services provider Contego Services Group, on how using simple techniques can help Notaries and other healthcare workers spot and stop medical-related ID scams.

Why has the healthcare industry become a big target for fraud?
Every industry these days is being pounded by fraud, but for the medical industry it has to do a lot with organized fraud rings and other dishonest persons realizing they can make enormous profits from healthcare-related scams. Some fraud rings plant people with false identities in order to obtain prescription medication from a provider, then turn around and sell the medication for thousands of dollars in profit. In other cases, it’s simply people who don’t have health insurance, coming in with someone else’s health card in order to get services.

Do you think healthcare providers need stricter identification policies to prevent identity fraud?
I do. Some organizations are getting wiser and requiring photo IDs such as driver’s licenses when people come in for services. The challenge there is that it’s easy to create a fake ID, and they’re getting more sophisticated. If you’re a receptionist or office worker at a healthcare facility and you’re not careful, it’s easy to be fooled. Doctors and healthcare professionals need more training in spotting fake IDs, and there should be random auditing to see if healthcare providers are actually checking the identity of patients.

What are some things Notaries and other healthcare professionals can do to spot and stop this kind of fraud?
The best way to spot fraudsters is ask simple questions about the ID being presented. When a fraudster steals identifying information and fakes an ID, the fraudster often doesn’t remember specific information on the fake ID like the actual address on the card. When you are presented with an ID and looking it over, ask the person questions like what their address and date of birth are, and see if the responses match what’s on the card. You’d be surprised how it will throw many fraudsters off — now you are holding the ID and the fraudster will panic because they don’t know the answers. Simple due diligence by Notaries can help too. Always require signers to present proper ID, and as a Notary, don’t forget you have a right to ask questions to verify identity.

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