What to know to avoid being scammed by a "free health screening"

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - In areas without easy access to healthcare, free health screenings are an important and affordable way for people to keep an eye on their health and look out for any potential issues. But, in parts of the country, scams are popping up in which so-called free health screenings are actually being used to collect personal information from unsuspecting patients.

The scammers target information like bank accounts, health insurance and social security numbers, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Genuine free health screenings are fairly common and can help people without easy access to healthcare or without the ability to pay for it.

Catholic Health holds dozens of free screenings every year, typically targeting underserved neighborhoods. The healthcare provider cautions that these screenings are no replacement to regular visits with a doctor, but says they have helped save lives.

"It's one of the ways we take care of people in the community, especially in our underserved communities," explained Mike Hickock, director of community outreach for Catholic Health. "We really want you to just be healthy and we want to take care of you. Some of these screenings that we do we find people with major issues and there have been times that we feel like we've saved lives by having these screenings."

Catholic Health provides legitimate free health screenings. The group never asks for insurance information, bank information or social security numbers at these free services.

Catholic Health is hosting free vascular screenings Saturday, May 5, at Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston. The screenings run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and anyone interested is asked to register by calling (716) 447-6205. More information about that screening can be found here.

BBB of Upstate New York recommends doing some research before attending a free health clinic and never consenting to lab tests without first speaking to your doctor. It also cautions against ever giving out health insurance information, bank account information or social security numbers in these situations.

"They see that okay, I'm going to a free health screening," Melanie McGovern, communications director for BBB of Upstate New York, said. "Maybe this might not be on the up and up. They'll do that extra little bit of research to make sure that health screening they're going to is given by legitimate companies, legitimate providers."

These screening scams have been reported in Lexington, Kentucky and Florida, but not yet in WNY, according to BBB of Upstate New York. The organization hopes to avoid any problems by raising awareness before the scammers strike.

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