This month, we’re highlighting SMP partner Carla Diaz!
Carla has worked at California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) for 9 years, assisting clients with fraud and abuse cases. CRLA is a nonprofit law firm serving low-income residents all over the state of California. During her 9 years, she has seen firsthand how Medicare fraud affects beneficiaries, and just how much organizations like our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) can make a difference in their lives.
Carla met our case manager, Sandy Morales, in Calexico around 2014 while helping with a presentation at a community center. She ended up taking a couple of our SMP flyers, but only had a vague idea of what SMP did at the time, and didn’t realize the scope of SMP’s services.
Fast forward seven years, starting in October 2021, Carla became an official SMP partner and now realizes how well our organizations compliment each other in helping seniors. As Carla said with a smile, “Two brains are better than one!” As different agencies, each can see things from different angles, and she is happy that her clients now have access to SMP and can turn to us to report Medicare fraud and get help if scammed.
Most memorable SMP case
One of Carla’s most memorable cases was with her own parents. She had diligently trained both her mother and father to never give out their Medicare number, and to refuse any services or free items that seemed too good to be true. Yet, she now knows that, even with proper education, fraud can still occur.
Her mother, who is diabetic, met someone at the doctor’s office who pressured her to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Medicare Part C) even though she was happy with the coverage she had.
In addition, her mom had taken some flyers from someone offering “free services”. Carla visited her parents soon after and saw the flyers on the table, yet thought her mom had probably just taken them to be polite. Unfortunately, it turns out her mom had invited the person into her home and they had taken pictures of her and her husband’s Medicare cards. Her mom had been good about not doing this type of thing (thanks to Carla’s advice), but was especially enticed since they had offered additional “perks” having to do with the pandemic.
This was a huge wake up call for Carla: even trained elderly people could still fall for this kind of scam. Carla called the person who visited her parents and told them not to contact them anymore. She also contacted Medicare to verify if they’d been enrolled in hospice and eventually got them new Medicare cards. Carla also worked with Sandy to make sure her parents were not in hospice and to also get her mom back into coverage she originally had and was happy with. She was grateful for this partnership between CRLA and SMP.
Favorite part of her work
Carla’s favorite part about her job at CRLA is the interaction with people – people of all ages. She enjoys working on Medicare fraud issues because understanding how medical insurance works is difficult but important to know. She recalls that when she started learning about Medicare and working on Medicare issues, it was hard and confusing. And, if it was difficult for her, she says, it would be difficult for the elderly to understand and makes them vulnerable to trust people who they think have their best interest at heart. She likes meeting with elders in person, educating them and offering their services, and she says it’s like CRLA is a part of their family. She loves that. Being a victim of a scam affects self esteem, so giving seniors and their families tools to defend themselves helps not only them, but their friends and loved ones.
Best tip to avoid fraud
One of Carla’s biggest tips for avoiding being defrauded comes from attending our Anatomy of a Scam webinar earlier this year, which included the four elements of a scam, all of which are red flags for fraud:
- Unsolicited contact from a stranger or trusted source
- Offering something that is valuable to you
- Request for personal and/or financial information
- Pressure to “act quickly” or lose out on an opportunity
Recognizing all of these “red flag” signs are important in tackling scammers and protecting consumers. Right after Carla took the webinar training, something similar happened to her sister, and she was able to send the four elements to all her family members to educate them.
Carla is not a coffee lover, but is a bread lover. Her favorite place is Portland, Oregon where she loves the atmosphere and the people. She is not a child person, but that probably has to do with the fact that she and her twin are the youngest of five daughters!
Thank you for all the work you do, Carla! We are proud to have you as our SMP partner.