Healthcare Fraud Losses Reach All-Time High

Various healthcare frauds cost Americans over $16 million in Q1 2024, a ten-fold increase from the same period last year.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 16,396 healthcare fraud complaints in the first quarter of 2024, according to a Healthnews report. Fifty-three percent of the reports indicated losing money, with an average loss of $258.

Most victims were contacted through phone calls and used credit cards as a payment method.

Most complaints originated from Florida, with 1,562 reports coming from people living in the Everglade State.

The medical treatments and cures frauds accounted for $12 million in losses, a steep increase from $1 million reported during the same period last year.

Chart of reported healthcare fraud looses 2019 to 2024 with 2024 Q1 of 16M losses
Healthcare fraud losses

Common scams in this category include supplements to treat opioid dependence and withdrawal and dementia, anti-aging treatments, and cancer-fighting products, such as pills or devices.

Another $3 million was lost in scams related to diet products, plans, and centers. The FTC warns any product that promises rapid, permanent weight loss without watching what you eat is a scam.

The remaining $1 million was swindled out of Americans' pockets by scam actors selling medical insurance and discount plans. You can read about common Medicare scams here.

How do I avoid health scams?

Health scams are easy to fall for, as they often make false promises to provide a miracle cure for a wide variety of diseases, even incurable ones. Scammers aim to convince potential victims that they must act now, leaving no time to think: the language they use includes words and phrases like "hurry" or "this offer will not last."

Moreover, scam actors often use phony, scientific-sounding terms like "molecule multiplicity," "glucose metabolism," or refer to prestigious prizes, like the Nobel prize, although the products often have nothing to do with science.

If you're thinking about buying a health product or service, the FTC recommends taking the following steps before opening your wallet or your bank account:

  • Do your research. Search for the name of the treatment or product online, plus the words "review," "complaint," or "scam."
  • Ask your doctor about the product or treatment before buying it. Ask if they are familiar with the brand, the effectiveness of the product, and the scientific evidence behind it. If you're already taking some supplements or drugs, ask about possible interactions and side effects.
  • Know that unproven products and treatments are dangerous. Taking these products may mean that you stop or delay taking proven medical treatments ordered by your healthcare provider, potentially worsening your condition.
  • Be skeptical about any treatment or product that makes guarantees or promises about your health.
  • Understand "natural" claims. Products marketed as natural are not necessarily safe or effective and might interfere with proven treatments recommended by your doctor.
  • Know the law on advertising. Federal law says sellers that peddle cures must have scientific proof to back up their claims. However, no government agency approves those ads before they go public.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently warned against using imported dietary supplements and nonprescription drugs sold at nontraditional places, such as ethnic or international stores, flea markets, swap meets, or online. The agency said these products may be contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals or drug ingredients not listed on the label.

People aged 50 to 80 who are in poor physical or mental health and those with disabilities are most likely to experience fraud, a 2023 survey reveals. Most older adults say that policymakers and companies should do more to protect people from scams.

As scammers are becoming more creative, it is crucial to research before purchasing any health product or service, especially if they promise a miracle cure for your condition.

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