The older I get the more thankful I am for trusting relationships, such as the one I have with my health care providers at ClareMedica. Not only have they helped me look after my physical health, but now they’ve taught me some valuable lessons about taking care of my personal information as well, or what they like to call, “information hygiene.”
Thanks to COVID-19 these have become strange times where navigating basic daily activities have become a strategic operation. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that cybercriminals don’t see these times as a challenge but rather as an opportunity to take advantage of our heightened sense of fear and concern. Now more than ever, it is important that I take steps to protect my personal information, including my medical information.
I’ve been reading about recent scams that have been trying to cash in on the scarcity of masks and medical protective equipment by promising these supplies and, in some cases, pre-approval if you sign up for their offer. In doing so they are hopeful to collect a Medicare number and other personal information. These scams have the potential to impact my access to vital health services, affect my credit ratings, and more. Not to mention the exorbitant costs to the health care system that unfortunately will eventually make its way down to us, the consumers.
I’ve also learned that while there is no singular quick fix, or a magic net to catch all these bad guys in, vigilance and smart information hygiene are your best defense. This means being thoughtful about how I share personal information, regularly changing passwords, and being mindful … here are some tips that I suggest you share with fellow seniors:
Treat your medical information with the same care that you do with your financial information.
Check your Medicare statements regularly, make sure that the charges listed match the appointments you have attended. If you find an error or discrepancy that a call to your provider cannot resolve, then report it. 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. Find more information on reporting Medicare fraud here.
If it sounds too good to be true - it is! Don’t even open suspicious looking emails, and if approached by phone - hang up the call without any excuses (it’s ok to be rude to scammers). Remember, you are in control of your health information.
If it appears to be coming from a trusted source, make a quick call to the organization yourself first to confirm, but do not use the links or phone numbers provided to you. Look them up online yourself or call a trusted contact. If they are truly legitimate in their intentions, they’ll have no problem giving you time to do your due diligence.
Be wary of offers for free services, or pre-approval to obtain services. These offers are just an opportunity for criminals to find a way into your personal information.
Remember, Medicare will never call to VERIFY your Medicare number or your Social Security number. Only give your Medicare number to participating Medicare pharmacists, primary and specialty care doctors, or people you have enlisted to work with Medicare on your behalf. Anyone requesting this information otherwise is likely attempting to phish (a techie word for luring or tempting you) for personal information for fraudulent purposes.
Use strong passwords. Your password should have a Capital letter, a num6er and a special character!
If there is an option for two-factor authentication, use it.This means when you sign up for something, before it becomes a finalized transaction, you must enter a single-use code only the service provider will send to you on another device.
For example: if you are signing up for something online, they might send a second verification code by text to your smartphone or by calling on your home phone. You’ll then need to enter this code online to complete your transaction.
Be careful using health tracking apps on your phone or athletic devices these services are not covered by HIPAA – Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. This act is meant to protect your medical information on file with doctors, hospitals, HMOs, insurance companies, and a range of medical service providers. Learn more about HIPAA here.
Keep in mind, these apps and services differ from the electronic medical records (EMR) your primary care provider uses to manage your health records and easily convey information about your care to other specialists and providers you authorize. EMR services are HIPAA compliant, meaning they follow all the right protocols to keep your information safe.
We live in an information age and your personal information is a hot commodity. While it can be used for good purposes like assessing the need for useful programs, resources, and services, it is also a commodity that is bought and sold amongst cybercriminals for predatory profiteering. As with your health, you are your own best advocate, seek the information you need and when in doubt ask questions and feel free to reach out to my friends at ClareMedica…they are patient with their patients and typically have the answers I need in a format that’s easy for me to understand, and in today’s complicated world, I really like that.
Take care of your health and your health information.
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