ST. LOUIS - There are two things in your house right now you should protect at all costs: your health insurance card and prescription pill bottles. In the wrong hands, they are a license to steal.
Jo Ellen Abou-Nader has seen it all when it comes to these cases. She leads the nationwide team at Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., working to prevent this type of fraud. She says thieves are after your information for two reasons.
The first, to get prescription drugs in your name to feed their drug habit. This can not only mess up your medical history, but cause doctors to treat you incorrectly.
"If there are prescriptions on your profile that you aren't taking such as diabetes, you are going to be seen as a diabetic but you really aren't," said Abou-Nader.
And the second reason imposters are after your medical ID; they want to file false claims with your insurance company.
"They're going to false bill those claims and never dispense the drugs," said Abou-Nader.
And those false claims can add up fast.
"A fraudster can bill hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of claims," said Abou-Nader.
And that's when your credit can take a hit. The charges can show up as unpaid bills on your account. Collectors call, and your credit score can plummet.
In order to protect yourself, police say you can never trust the people that come in and out of your house, so keep all prescriptions at all times in a lock box. As for your health insurance card, treat it like a credit card with a sky high limit. Keep it safe in your wallet in case of an emergency, but if you lose it, report it stolen immediately.
When you finish a prescription, don't just throw away the bottle either.
"I would rip the label off and shred the label and then dispose of it that way," said Abou-Nader.
A few easy steps that can not only protect your finances, but something truly priceless: your health.
Also, keep the explanation of benefits the company sends after treatment in a safe place. It has all your health insurance information on it as well.
Tuesday at 10 p.m. we'll explain how to look for warning signs, and make sure you have not fallen victim to medical identity thieves.