Healthcare Marketing in the US
Healthcare marketing can be seen everywhere. Health care information and services are shared online via ads and targeted marketing. People receive emails about marketing healthcare services and products regularly. Healthcare-related marketing is also conducted via phone calls and direct mail. The volume of this type of advertising activity is growing as time passes, and our society becomes more and more technologically savvy. Consumers need to have avenues to filter this information and be able to separate legitimate marketing from scams.
Healthcare in the US is a highly sophisticated business. Understanding that healthcare is often a for-profit industry is key to understanding how common healthcare scamming is currently. While many healthcare services are legitimate and offer people real help and needed services, a growing network of healthcare scammers prey on society’s most vulnerable members, like the disabled, the elderly, and the low income. Below are some tips to help prevent being scammed and allow consumers to better decipher between real healthcare resources and dishonest marketing.
Tip 1: Use Reverse Email Lookup to Check Recipient Email Address
People receive hundreds of emails every day, and it is becoming harder and harder to tell junk mail and scams apart from legitimate emails. Using email address search services can help recipients understand where an email is truly coming from. Use an email lookup service and input the email address shown in the “from” field of the email. You will get additional information that can help you accurately identify the true sender of the email.
Tip 2: Pay Attention to Key Details about Email
All emails note the time zone and time the email was sent, and paying attention to these details can help you identify potential scams. If you receive an email from an international time zone, but the business being marketed in domestic, that may be a suspicious detail that could indicate a scam. If there are misspellings in the sender’s email address or strange details, such as .biz instead of .com or .org ending to the email address, it may also mean the email is suspicious.
Tip 3: Assess the Call to Action
Whether it is an email, a telephone call, or a web ad, healthcare ads most often include calling to action. This is anything that asks the recipient to take any step. It may be submitting information, signing up for something, enrolling in a service, confirming information, or a variety of other steps. Pay attention to requests for identifying information such as social security numbers, dates of birth, and similar information. That may be a data mining scam that will lead to identity theft. Legitimate healthcare businesses take precautions to protect personal information because they are required to do so by law. Therefore, they would not ask for you to submit personal information unless the proper online security was established – usually through a portal requiring a login and verification.
Internet Crimes that Involve Healthcare
Healthcare is prevalent to all people in some shape or form. Everyone needs to take care of their health and address any health issues that arise to live a full life. This is why healthcare scams are a growing area online, and it is important to be aware of their existence. When a person suffers from a health condition, they will often try anything, even if it is not a well-known avenue to treatment. This type of vulnerability makes for an opportunity for scammers. Below are examples of healthcare schemes:
- Illegitimate Health Insurance – victims of this scam might be asked to purchase insurance, and after they do, they realize the insurance is invalid
- Health Insurance Marketplace Assistance – since individuals and small businesses in the US can now buy insurance directly, there may be illegitimate health insurance middlemen who price gouge or sell plans that do not exist.
- Stolen Health Information – some scams ask people to provide their private health information online, and then that information is stolen and shared or sold without authorization.
- Questionable Medication Sales – there are online ads that offer significant savings on prescription or over-the-counter medication, but the quality and safety of these are often lacking.
- Suspect Supplements / Weight Loss Products – online offers could promise increased energy, weight loss, or increased sex drive, but the products sold are often ineffective and sometimes even dangerous.
The scams listed above are often initiated through spam email, online advertisements, links in forums or social media, and fraudulent websites. Targeted marketing can make online ads pop up on people’s Facebook, Amazon, or Gmail, based on their online search activities. Here is how online users can protect themselves:
- Vet Websites Before Purchasing – check reviews of websites and lookup public records to see if any court claims have been filed against the websites you consider purchasing healthcare goods or services.
- Check Email Addresses of Businesses Offering Health Care Services – use a reverse email lookup service to see if the receiving email is legitimate or spam. Do not purchase anything from suspicious email addresses.
- Do Not Click on Suspicious Links – if an online ad pops up with an offer that fits your needs, hold your cursor over it before clicking. Pay attention to what appears when you do that – if it is a site that sounds very different from the services being offered in the ad, do not click it. If you click a link and get redirected a couple of times, close the browser and not proceed. Similarly, if the website that appears when you click the link is full of ads, do not purchase goods or services from it.
- Use Private Browsing to Research Health Conditions and Treatments – health information is sensitive. It should not be disseminated or sold for marketing purposes, but web browsers capture your search history and allow businesses to market to you based on your searches. Using private browsing functions when researching can protect you from targeted ads.
It is hard not to worry about becoming a victim of a healthcare marketing scam. Still, through educating yourself about trends in online marketing tactics, you can become savvier about protecting yourself. Take the time to do your research and approach healthcare businesses carefully. The results will include satisfying business transactions and peace of mind.
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