Protect Your Private Health Information with These Tips

Patient & Caregiver Resources
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Woman confused by cybersecurity on her computer

In today’s digital age, senior citizens and older adults are often the target of cybercriminals and scam artists. These criminals use common scamming tactics to trick people into revealing sensitive information. Because some older adults aren’t as technically savvy as younger generations, these scammers believe they can more easily trick you.

There are many types of information that scammers may try to steal from you—it could be your Social Security number, banking information, Protected Health Information (PHI), Medicare number, business account numbers and more. If this information lands in the wrong hands, you may become a victim of identity theft or fraud. Luckily, there are steps you can take to mitigate your risk.

Don’t be Tricked into Sharing Your PHI

Outside of the hospital or clinic, what can you do to protect your PHI? Being aware of common scamming tactics can create a strong frontline of defense. Healthcare or health insurance fraud is one common way that criminals steal from seniors. Be aware of the tactics below:

“Free” health screenings: If someone offers you a free health screening over the phone, they may also ask for your Medicare number first. Never give out your Medicare number to an unsolicited caller. The person may use this information to gather other personal information about you or they may bill Medicare for services they did not actually perform.

“Free” medical equipment: Similarly, someone claiming to be from a medical equipment company may call to offer you free medical supplies or to waive the cost of a device that you need. Then, they send you a bill for it. It’s best to talk to a medical provider you trust about which medical supply companies they recommend and know to be trustworthy.

Unsolicited insurance reps: As a rule of thumb, you should not do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople. They may come to your home or call you with an offer to help file insurance claims on your behalf. Do not sign blank insurance claim forms or give a blanket authorization to a medical provider for services.

Other Common Scamming Tactics to Avoid

Healthcare scams are often targeted to seniors, but there are other ways they may try to gather your personal information. To evoke an emotional response, cybercriminals may send you an email pretending to be a good friend or relative experiencing a crisis and asking for your financial assistance. If you receive an email like this, you should always try to contact your loved one via the telephone. Hear their voice, and confirm that it’s really them asking for help.

Scammers are also known to impersonate the IRS. It’s important to know that the IRS will never initiate contact, request your tax payer ID or take legal action via phone, email, text or social media. The IRS will only contact you by mail.

Because many seniors experience mobility issues, you may find yourself shopping online more often. Consider using your credit card instead of your debit card when shopping online; that way if someone steals your card number, they won’t be able to liquidate your checking account. It’s also important not to give out your credit card or banking information via social media, as someone could access your card numbers if they logged into your account.

Encompass Health has multiple layers of technology to prevent a successful attack on our information systems, which house sensitive data about our patients and employees. Protecting this data is something we take very seriously and monitor constantly. With a little know-how, you, too, can defend yourself against scammers and ensure your private information is safe, secure and personal to you—the way it should be.

The content of this site is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions or treatments.