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Nearly Twenty Percent of Consumers Have Unpaid Medical Bills On Their Credit Report

A new study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows that nearly 43 million American consumers have unpaid medical bills on their credit reports. These unpaid bills are damaging credit and indicate that many consumers are confused about how much they owe and what their responsibilities are when they receive medical invoices.A new study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows that nearly 43 million American consumers have unpaid medical bills on their credit reports. These unpaid bills are damaging credit and indicate that many consumers are confused about how much they owe and what their responsibilities are when they receive medical invoices. Interestingly, the report shows that roughly half of those with unpaid medical debts have no other form of debt. This indicates a high rate of confusion on the part of those receiving medical bills. Hospital and doctor billing systems tend to generate invoices which are difficult to read. This coupled with the fact that recipients of these bills may simply expect their insurance coverage to make payment, are leading consumers to make mistakes with regard to their medical debts. The average amount of unpaid medical debt for those with no other forms of debt is $1,766. For those with both unpaid medical and other debts such as credit cards, the average amount owed is $5,638. The responsibility for making sure that these debts get paid is ultimately up to the consumer. ACCESS advises that consumers who receive an invoice for medical debt do the following if they are unsure what their responsibilities are:
  1.  Contact the hospital/doctor's billing department immediately. Ask if the invoice has been submitted to your insurance company. If not, ask that it be submitted. If it has been submitted, ask when you can expect the matter to be resolved. If you are not insured and can't afford to pay in full, ask them to work out a payment plan with you.
  2. Review any statements you receive from your insurance company. Make sure that any doctor or hospital payments are correct.
  3. If you receive a second invoice from the hospital/doctor, call them again. Ask them to give you a status on any communications they have had with your insurer.
One final note here. Most insurance plans have already negotiated rates for services with the doctors in their network. Nevertheless, many doctors and hospitals will attempt to bill you individually for more than the negotiated rates. Simply put, this is fraud and it can usually be taken care of with a couple of phone calls. The first call is to the doctor's office. Tell them that your insurance policy has negotiated the rate and that since the doctor is in your network he/she is obligated to take that rate. If that doesn't take care of the issue, then you need to call your insurance company and file a complaint against the doctor. _______________ Jim Malmberg, ACCESS, American Consumer Credit Education Support Services, is a non-profit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy group whose primary purpose is to disseminate credit education information and assistance to the general public, visit www.GuardMyCreditFile.org

Donation Overpayment Scheme

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received numerous complaints from businesses, charitable organizations, schools, universities, health related organizations, and non-profit organizations, reporting an online donation scheme. The complaints reported subjects who had donated thousands of dollars, via stolen credit cards. This report, which is based upon information from law enforcement and complaints submitted to the IC3, details recent cyber crime trends and new twists to previously-existing cyber scams.

DONATION OVERPAYMENT SCHEME

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received numerous complaints from businesses, charitable organizations, schools, universities, health related organizations, and non-profit organizations, reporting an online donation scheme. The complaints reported subjects who had donated thousands of dollars, via stolen credit cards. Once donations were made, the subjects immediately requested the majority of the donation back, but credited to a different card. They claimed to have mistakenly donated too much by adding an extra digit to the dollar amount (i.e., $5000 was ‘accidently’ entered instead of $500). However, very few complainants actually returned the money to the second credit card. Many, through their own investigations, discovered the original card was stolen, or the credit card company notified them of such. Also, some of the organizations’ policies did not allow funds to be returned to a different credit card. ___________________ The IC3 was established as a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) to serve as a means to receive Internet related criminal complaints and to further research, develop, and refer the criminal complaints to federal, state, local or international law enforcement and/or regulatory agencies for any investigation they deem to be appropriate.

The Naughty List: 5 Holiday Scams and How to Avoid Them

With the holidays come seasonal scams, but don’t let them put a damper on your festivities. Our own Katherine Hutt, the national spokesperson for BBB, was interviewed on PBS and featured in Forbes about scams specific to the giving season.With the holidays come seasonal scams, but don’t let them put a damper on your festivities. Our own Katherine Hutt, the national spokesperson for BBB, was interviewed on PBS and featured in Forbes about scams specific to the giving season. “The holidays are used as a hook for the same scams we see the rest of the year,” said Hutt. “Since people are doing more shopping at this time of year, scammers are out in full force to take advantage of that.” Check out the list of the naughtiest holiday scams, and learn how to defend against the fraudsters who really deserve coal this year. 1.    Fake websites promising fake deals. Some scammers will send fake emails or advertisements promising unheard of deals for a product, leading you to a fake website that steals your credit card information when you try to check out. Protect yourself by staying away from deals too good to be true, checking the URL and checking BBB’s Business Directory before buying. 2.    Santa letter scheme. While some legitimate companies sell letters from Santa Claus, some scammers are using this idea to steal credit card and identity information from unsuspecting consumers. When looking for a customized letter, research different companies and go to their sites straight from your browser, not from emails or social media.  3.    Fake gift cards. Gift cards are the most popular holiday gift, but also the most susceptible to fraud. Criminals will go to a store and record the activation code on a gift card. After checking if the gift card is still valid online, fraudsters can use the online code to cash the gift card for resalable products. Before buying, make sure the security code on the gift card is scratch-free and look for gift cards that come in an unopened, plastic container. 4.    False data breaches. Taking advantage of data breach fears, scammers will call pretending to be retailers asking for personal information to “sort things out.” If an incident does occur, the company will alert its consumers through their website or social media and will not call the consumer directly. If you are unsure, call the customer service number and ask to speak to the fraud department. Since you called the number, you should be safe to give out personal information if asked. 5.    Card skimmers. To steal your credit or debit card information, scammers will install skimming devices at ATMs or put faceplates over payment terminals so they can access your accounts. When shopping, stay alert by keeping your cards in sight and covering the screen when entering your pin. Check out full article on Forbes. _________________ The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.

Don't Let "Grinches" Ruin Your Holiday Season

Scams happen year round but become particularly prevalent during the holiday season. Scammers know that consumers are rushed and likely don’t have the time to be as careful as they would like to be. These thieves also know that consumers are doing more and more shopping online.Scams happen year round but become particularly prevalent during the holiday season.  Scammers know that consumers are rushed and likely don’t have the time to be as careful as they would like to be.  These thieves also know that consumers are doing more and more shopping online. All those reasons make a recent alert from the FBI even more timely.  At its website, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3) has just posted an alert about which consumers need to be aware.  The alert reports that from June 2009 to June 2014, the FBI’s ic3 got over 6800 complaints from consumers who thought they were buying “big ticket” items from reputable sellers.  The items included cars, recreational vehicles, boats and other outdoor equipment.  Some of these items were listed at serious discounts. What was the scam?  As the alert outlines, the ads were listed using fake information about payment methods; sometimes consumers were instructed to use a fake Ebay account. Consumers were given the name, address and account number for the scammers bank to which consumers could wire their payments. What really happened?  No goods, lost money and no recourse.  The FBI’s alert reports that consumers lost over $20 million to these scams in the five year period. The FBI’s alert is worth reading.  It provides more details about this particular scam as well as the FBI’s tips for avoiding these types of scams.  The alert can be found at: http://www.ic3.gov; the alert number is I-111414-PSA; dated November 14th and  titled: “Criminals Post Fraudulent Online Advertisements for Automobiles, Recreational Vehicles, Boats, and Other Outdoor Equipment Leading to Financial Losses in Excess of $20 Million”. _________________ Ms. Diener is now an independent consultant on privacy, identity management, information protection and risk management. She served in senior managerial, legal, policy and legislative positions in all three branches of the Federal government. In addition to her privacy expertise, Ms. Diener played a lead role on such important domestic and international issues as criminal justice/law enforcement and financial services. She speaks frequently at industry and governmental conferences and meetings.