March is Fraud Prevention Month, and the Competition Bureau Canada is leading the charge in helping people become smarter consumers. Since 2004, the CBC has hosted a number of educational opportunities hoping to create an informed population capable of recognizing and avoiding instances of health care fraud. Though these disingenuous schemes can come in all shapes and sizes, here are a few tips to help identify cases of fraud.
Don't trust pushy salespeople or rush deals
Aggressive sales people and "limited-time offers" may not always be a sign of fraud, but they should be enough to raise a red flag or two. A common ploy from shady businesses is to try to confuse potential customers or rush them into making a decision. It's important to take your time and weigh your options whenever making a financial decision so you know precisely what you're getting into before you agree to anything.
Research treatment options and specialists
Though you may have a doctor you know and trust, it's a good idea to be knowledgeable about both about their credentials and your own condition. Read reviews of the health care facility you are planning to visit to see what other patients' experiences have been, and maybe even look into the licensing and educational background of the physician or specialist you're hoping to visit. Similarly, know what kind of treatments individuals with your health condition typically enjoy. One of the biggest element of healthcare fraud stems from unnecessary procedures and medications, so being an informed consumer can help cut down on these additional expenses.
Watch out for identity thieves
Identity theft is one of the most prominent forms of fraud across the globe - with the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre reporting that more than 20,000 Canadians were impacted in 2014 alone, representing a loss of $10.5 million. Identity thieves can use an individual's identity to purchase costly medical treatments, equipment or medication. In addition to the obvious financial impacts, this can also wreak havoc on one's credit score. You'll definitely want to keep a close eye on your credit report and follow up with your physician on any questionable billing.
Don't trust an online pharmacy
Online pharmacies often lure in customers with the promise of cheaper medications that can be shipped right to your front door, the problem being that many of these companies are selling less than reputable medications made to look like the real thing. This not only means that users are potentially not getting the treatment they seek, but they're also putting their own health at risk by taking unknown substances. If you must buy medications online, be sure it is from a reputable organization.
Protect your information
There are a number of simple ways to protect yourself from fraudsters and identity thieves. Before sharing any personal or financial information with anyone, be certain that you are dealing with a legitimate operation. Don't be afraid to ask for documentation on the company or its services, and take the time to look them up online - and if you are at all uncertain whether or not the business is legitimate walk away. Delete rogue emails from questionable sources and - whenever possible - use different passwords for different services. If you use a public computer, make sure that you are logged out from all websites before you get up and walk away.