The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has featured podcasts on its website covering a variety of current fraud alerts and topics. This is an easy way to listen and learn.
Below is an excerpt of some helpful Q&As from their latest podcast on diabetes supplies phone scams. Note that while they direct people to report suspected fraud to their OIG hotline, we also request that you first contact your local California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) project. We will forward such reportings to the OIG and/or other government agencies as appropriate. Our California SMP helpline is 1-855-613-7080.
Excerpt from the Podcast: Fraud Alert for People with Diabetes
How do you know if a call is a scam?
You should be suspicious of anyone who offers free Medicare items or services. Medicare does not make calls offering supplies or services to patients. So if someone calls you claiming to be from Medicare, it’s a red flag.
Be wary of unsolicited calls because medical suppliers are not supposed to call you without prior permission. So if you receive an unsolicited call offering free supplies or other medical goods, you should be on alert.
What if they ask you for financial information?
You should be particularly suspicious of any callers who ask for your Medicare or any other financial information. These scammers may want to trick you into revealing your personal information by asking you to verify your Medicare number. Don’t give your Medicare number or other personal information to the caller. Once your Medicare information is in the hands of a criminal, not only can they charge items and services to Medicare in your name, but you are prone to further scams, such as identity theft.
Can you give an example of diabetes supplies and some of the items that they’re offering?
Typically, free diabetic supplies, such as glucose meters, diabetic test strips, or lancets. And the caller may also offer other medical supplies such as heating pads, foot orthotics, or joint braces, all in exchange for your Medicare number or banking information. Although the caller may claim these items are “free,” these are not free. They’re still billed to the Medicare program and still cost taxpayers money. We also have reports of people receiving excessive diabetic supplies and other medical supplies that they don’t want or need. Just know you are under no obligation to accept these items that you didn’t order. So instead, you should refuse the delivery and return it to sender.
What should people do if they think they’ve been scammed and have received a suspicious call?
You should report it to the OIG Hotline. That number is 1-800-HHS-TIPS. You can also report it online at our website OIG.HHS.gov. And, click on the big red button that says “Report Fraud.” As part of the report, it’s important to provide as much detail as you can about the call, such as the company’s telephone number and address, the company name, and a summary of the conversation you had. The more information you provide to us, the greater chance we can identify who the scammers are.
What if you get medical equipment that you haven’t ordered?
As I said, you should not accept items that you did not order. Instead, refuse the delivery and return to sender. And report this to the OIG Hotline, including the items that you received and the sender’s name.
Are you concerned about medical identity theft as a result of these unsolicited calls?
Absolutely. I want to emphasize how important it is to protect your personal information. You should not provide callers with your Medicare number, bank account information, or credit card numbers. I’d also like you to alert your friends and family about this scheme as well. Remind them not to provide strangers with their Medicare numbers or personal information. This Medicare number is basically the keys to the Medicare program, and they cannot commit fraud without it.
Is there anything you want to add that you think is important?
It is very important that you check your Medicare Summary Notices for items you didn’t order and didn’t receive. So be on the lookout for diabetic supplies that were billed multiple times. And report any irregular activity to your health care provider or call us at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.