The elderly are especially vulnerable to medical equipment scams because they have a higher chance of being in pain and desperate for relief. In many cases, scammers claim to be from Medicare or the Social Security Administration and say that you qualify for a low-cost or free medical device.
Scammers may target Medicare patients
Medicare is a government-run program that provides health insurance to people who are 65 or older, or who are disabled.
Here are some ways scammers may try to get Medicare info:
- They may claim they can help you get a medical device if you pay them.
- They may ask for your Social Security number so they can update your account records with Medicare.
- Scammers will sometimes trick seniors into revealing their Medicare number by calling it “health insurance” instead of “Medicare.”
Don’t provide personal information to strangers over the phone.
Education is the number one preventative in protecting the elderly from medical equipment scams. Teach those you care for to never give out personal information over the phone, even if it sounds like someone from Medicare or another organization who might be calling. This is because the scammers may have stolen information from people’s social security numbers or other forms of identification and are trying to get more information so they can use it fraudulently.
How Caregivers can protect the elderly from scams
- Educate patients on the different ways that scammers will try to steal information.
- Set up an account with a monitoring service to alert you to unusual activity.
- Review financial statements regularly including: fraudulent charges, unauthorized withdrawals, and unauthorized purchases
- Get the family involved. Have family members help you monitor spending, help make financial decisions, and help with education about scams.
Resources to contact if you suspect fraud
- Report it to Medicare at 800-633-4227
- The National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) at www.fraud.org ; 1-800-876-7060
- Your state Attorney General’s office or local law enforcement agency
The truth is that there are no free medical devices available through Medicare or any other government organization. Any offer of a government-funded product should be treated with extreme skepticism—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If you care for an elderly person, be sure to educate them on these scams and how to avoid them.