EDITORIAL: Medicare DNA Scam

Nothing is more infuriating to us than people who prey on seniors. People who try to get something, basically, for nothing. Oh sure, it takes time to sit on the phone and scam people, and as they say time is money - but, really, get a real job!

This is an advisory from the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs:

 

COLUMBIA – A possible new twist on an old type of Medicare scam is popping up around the state SCDCA is warning consumers to be on the look-out for representatives or companies offering “free” DNA testing services through their Medicare coverage. While SCDCA has not received any complaints direct from consumers, event coordinators from community centers and churches have reported holding recent events like the one described below.

No two schemes are identical, but here’s what a situation might look like: A representative of a company shows up at a local health fair, senior housing facility, community center, church or home health agency offering free health screenings, including genetic testing. They falsely promise that Medicare will pay for the testing, all you need to do is provide a cheek swab, your ID and Medicare information. They may even pay YOU to get the testing done. If you do as they ask, they now have your information and can use the information provided for either identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes, racking up thousands of dollars of services not covered by Medicare.

Don’t be a victim of Medicare fraud. Protect yourself and your benefits:

Random genetic testing and cancer screenings aren’t covered by Medicare. To be covered, they must be 1) ordered by your personal physician and 2) deemed medically necessary and covered by your plan. If you are interested in a test or screening, speak with your personal doctor.

Never give out your private information. That includes Social Security, Medicare or health plan numbers or banking information to someone you don’t know. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.

Do not consent to any lab tests. Whether at a senior center, health fair, or in your home, always be suspicious of anyone claiming that genetic tests and cancer screenings can be performed at no cost to you.

Monitor your Medicare Summary Notice. Watch to see if there are any services you didn’t have or didn’t want but were billed for. Medicare Summary Notices are sent every three months if you get any services or medical supplies during that 3-month period.

Even if these representatives aren’t linking their testing to Medicare coverage, be wary of these kinds of offerings. To report suspected Medicare fraud, call (877) 772-3379. Consumers who attended events like the one described above are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Unit at (844) TELL DCA (835-5322) to receive more information on defending against identity theft and scams. For a copy of our recently updated ID Theft Prevention Guide call the department.

About SCDCA

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs aims to protect consumers from inequities in the marketplace through advocacy, complaint mediation, enforcement and education. To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call toll-free,1 (800) 922-1594.

 

So, to recap the “take-home message” from this column: NEVER, EVER give out your private information. Hackers - unfortunately - have far too many diabolical ways to acquire that information, we all must protect ourselves.

And, pay attention to your elderly neighbors. Trusting someone in all sincerity, not in ignorance, can get them in trouble. If they say someone contacted them and it doesn’t sound just right, call the authorities. It’s a first-line-of-defense against wicked people.

 

ALSO:

 

Social Security and OIG Launch Public Service Announcement Campaign 

 

Agency Alerts Public about Telephone Impersonation Scheme

 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have launched a joint Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign addressing a nationwide telephone impersonation scheme. 

Social Security and the OIG continue to receive reports from across the country about fraudulent phone calls from people falsely claiming to be Social Security employees. 

Calls can even “spoof” Social Security’s national customer service number as the incoming number on the caller ID. The new PSAs will air on TV and radio stations across the country to alert the public to remain vigilant against potential fraud.

“We urge you to always be cautious and to avoid providing sensitive information such as your Social Security number or bank account information to unknown people over the phone or Internet,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “If you receive a call and are not expecting one, you must be extra careful – you can always get the caller’s information, hang up, and contact the official phone number of the business or agency the caller claims to represent. Do not reveal personal data to a stranger who calls you.”

Social Security employees do occasionally contact people -- generally those who have ongoing business with the agency -- by telephone for business purposes. 

However, Social Security employees will never threaten a person or promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent and people should not engage with the caller. If a person receives these calls, he or she should report the information to the OIG Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

“These calls appear to be happening across the country, so we appreciate SSA’s partnership in this national public outreach effort,” said Gail S. Ennis, the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “Our message to the public is simply this: If you or someone you know receives a questionable call claiming to be from SSA or the OIG, just hang up.”

 

 

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