SWEETWATER COUNTY – A telephone health care fraud targeting seniors on Medicare surfaced recently in Sweetwater County, Sheriff Mike Lowell said on Tuesday.
The callers – who often have heavy accents – begin by addressing their intended victims by name and asking about back pain, joint pain, or chronic pain in general, and identify themselves as representatives of medical practitioners or medical supply companies.
They then go on to describe medical products, devices, or medications they claim offer relief from pain, such as braces for knees, backs, ankles, hands, and elbows, or special salves, which they can facilitate through a doctor or other health care provider.
All they need, they say, is the individual’s Medicare number.
With the Medicare number in hand, the swindlers then bill Medicare for the brace, device, or salve; what seniors receive – if anything at all – is cheap, shoddy, and virtually useless.
“Telephone solicitations like these are major red flags of a swindle,” said Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective Dick Blust. “Legitimate health care providers don’t call around fishing for clients, and they do not collect Medicare numbers over the phone.”
Blust said the calls placed recently to Sweetwater County residents were sourced mostly in Pennsylvania.
Medicare swindles are a big business. One federal strike force initiative, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, staffed by investigators from the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services, has, since 2007, brought charges against more than 2,000 defendants responsible for over $6.5 billion in bogus Medicare billings.
Seniors on Medicare are encouraged to consult Medicare’s website at https://www.medicare.gov/…/how-to-spot-…/spotting-fraud.html for information on how to spot and deal with fraud.