CHICAGO (CBS) — A strange package showed up in a suburban woman’s mailbox, and then another.
The closer she looked, the more eerie things became. Who has been using her name to order medical tests?READ MORE: Chicago Police Officer Shot, Wounded In Calumet Heights
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory took us inside a scam that could show up on your doorstep too.
Jazz musician Julie Ponce’s performed around the world. Now, she’s using her voice to sound an alarm.
“I found out somebody had stolen my Medicare card,” said Ponce, who reached out to CBS 2 to raise awareness about what she believes is a scam.
She first noticed something awry when a package showed up containing a medical test.
“I never ordered it. And I thought, hmm. Maybe my doctor ordered it. I’ll just save this when I go see her and I’ll find out,” said Ponce.
Then another test kit arrived in the mail.
“And I became suspicious,” said Ponce.
The second unsolicited envelope contained a form for a hereditary cancer screening. The information was pre-filled out, but in many spots, it was inaccurate. For example, Ponce does not identify as male. She’d never used the phone number listed. The number of siblings shown was inaccurate too.
“They have completely all the wrong history, medical history,” Ponce said.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Trial: Abel Osundairo, One Of Two Brothers Who Said He Was Paid To Help Stage Attack, Says Smollett 'Wanted Me To Fake Beat Him Up'
Haywood Talcove would bet this is all a ruse by a scammer to get free healthcare. He is chief executive officer of LexisNexis Risk Solutions Government, which helps nab fraudsters.
Talcove provided CBS 2 images of cryptic posts made to the dark web that are actually stolen Medicare or Medicaid cards for sale. The end goal of the scammer is monetizing the Medicaid card, said Talcove.
He further explained that a seedy buyer could use the ID for doctor’s appointments and tests – and because it’s Medicaid or Medicare, charge those services to the government.
The test Ponce received runs about $15,000, Talcove said. That would’ve been billed to taxpayers, and then Ponce for possible copay if she had mailed in the swab.
What’s more alarming – this scam often goes undetected, which leaves victims fighting insurance payments for services they never received.
“This fraud has been going on for a decade,” Talcove explained, “and usually no one is aware of it because the individual who is stealing it changes the mailing address.”
Meaning Ponce is almost lucky she received the packages – a tip off to a rip off.
She filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and other authorities. Ponce also made sure to change her Medicare ID number.
Talcove encourages scam victims to freeze their credit too.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Partly Cloudy And Breezy Overnight
He tells CBS 2 the company that sent Ponce the test could get in trouble. He explained scammers can call in and order medical services, but they’re supposed to be stopped when a provider asks for proof the Medicare ID being used matches the caller’s identity.