INDIANAPOLIS — Some Hoosiers may have already experienced the dreaded phone call beckoning you to pay your medical debt. But what if the person on the other line isn’t exactly who they seem? The Central Indiana Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers about the threats of rising medical bill scams.

BBB Scam Tracker has recently received reports about phony medical bills and collections departments.

How the scam works

BBB officials say the scam begins with receiving a letter or call informing that you owe money on a medical bill. If you follow up then the “billing department’ will insist and urge you to pay immediately. If you don’t comply you will reportedly face consequences such as fines, damage to your credit or even jail time.

Many people will be eager to settle debts after the “false warning” and will provide their credit or debit card number. However before paying the scammer will ask to confirm your name, address and other sensitive information. This often can include your social security or bank account number.

The scam has several versions. In some the bills and medical services are entirely fabricated. One person told BBB Scam Tracker that they, “received a medical bill for $500 for Covid testing that supposedly occurred in VA in January. I did a quick look into the business website and the site wasn’t even registered/live until May. I was also out of state (in CA) when it claims I got tested.” 

Other times the doctor’s visit was real but the company claiming you owe money is a scam. One BBB Scam Tracker report states, “I received a medical bill on 01/18/2023. I called the billing department number on the statement. However, I miss-dialed[sic] the number… and I was re-directed to a possible scam agency.” In this case the “billing department” asked for caller’s email, credit card details, birthday and other personal information.

They told the caller that the bill was taken care of and would send an email confirmation. However this was not the case. No matter what type of scam used giving up your personal info puts you at risk for identity theft. Also any money paid could be lost for good depending on the evidence and bank you use.

Ways to avoid medical billing scams

  1. Verify the claims
    • If someone claims you owe money always ask for details. Any legitimate collections company should be able to tell you to whom you owe money and when you received services. Consider it a red flag if they aren’t forthcoming with this information. In any case its always a good idea to hang up and contact your doctor’s office directly, hospital billing department or even insurance company to find out what money is owed.
  2. Look up the customer service number
    • Do an internet search on the phone number that contacted you or the customer service number on the letter received. The number should be registered to an official business associated with your doctor or hospital. If not then consider it a red flag. Also keep out an eye for reports of the number being identified as a scam.
  3. Don’t give in to scare tactics
    • Scammers often try to make you feel like there will be extreme consequences if you don’t pay up immediately. Don’t be intimidated by a stranger who contacted you out of the blue. legitimate businesses won’t threaten if you ask questions or want to verify information before making a payment.
  4. Guard your personal info carefully
    • If you are called unexpectedly and asked to “verify” your personal information always think twice. Be sure you’re talking to someone you know and trust before divulging information that could be used to commit identity theft. Even if the caller on the other end sounds professional.

For more information you can read about a similar scam in BBB Tip: Healthcare scams are after your personal information.

You can also learn more ways to protect yourself by visiting “10 Steps to Avoid Scams.”