CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Just when you think they’ve gone too far, scammers push the limit yet again. This time they’re threatening to put patients in jail if they don’t pay medical bills, and in some cases they’re bills that don’t exist.

What You Need To Know

  • Scammers posing as creditors are talking people into paying for COVID-19 tests they haven’t taken

  • Some are going as far as threatening to put them in jail if they don’t pay up

  • The Better Business Bureau says consumers are protected from phony creditors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Better Business Bureau says it has received reports of fake medical bills and debt collectors. Not only are the phony collectors asking for bank card information, they’re also asking for personal information like Social Security numbers.

BBB President and CEO Tom Bartholomy says scammers are taking advantage of the confusion that already comes along with medical bills.

“If you have insurance, you’re going to get a bill from your insurance company, and you’re also going to get a bill from the provider. You don’t want to pay them both, so who do you pay?” he said. “And then you add a scammer level on top of that, and it gets just crazy!”

Even after the World Health Organization ruled the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a global public health emergency, Bartholomy says scammers are still using the pandemic against vulnerable people.

“They contact you by phone and say you have an outstanding medical bill — you had a COVID test done last year that you haven’t paid for, and you now owe us $425,” he said. “That’s where their fun begins.”

Scammers will even resort to applying pressure, telling patients they’re not getting off the phone until the bill gets paid in full.

Bartholomy says even if legitimate creditors resort to tactics like this, consumers are not obligated to give in over the phone. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that allows consumers to request the debt collector to put everything in writing, proving that they owe the debt. He says legitimate creditors will do this without a problem.