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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Seniors Beware Of The “Free” Medicare Medical Equipment Scam

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Better Business Bureau
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Seniors are less likely to fall for scams overall, according to the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. But here is one scam that’s aimed right at seniors: free medical equipment.

The Better Business Bureau is hearing from consumers – more than 200 since the first of the year – who have been targeted by scammers for “free” back braces.

Here’s how this scam works. You get a call saying you qualify for a back brace or a knee brace – totally paid for by Medicare. The scammer may pretend to be from Medicare, or they may claim to be the maker of durable medical equipment (DME). They say you qualify for the equipment for free, and they repeatedly call until you relent and allow them to submit an order to your doctor for the equipment.

Or you may say no, but the company ships the brace anyway. Other times the equipment just shows up on your doorstep and Medicare receives the bill. Often consumers have a difficult time returning the unnecessary equipment.

By law, no one is allowed to make unsolicited calls to consumers about durable medical equipment. If they do, it’s Medicare fraud. And taxpayers’ foot the bill for all the unwanted products.

If you get such a call, just hang up. Medicare fraud has cost the American public more than $60 billion. To protect yourself from DME fraud, refuse and report anyone offering “free” equipment, supplies, or services in exchange for your Medicare number.

Know that Medicare medical suppliers are not allowed to make unsolicited telephone calls or send e-mails to sell you equipment unless you’ve done business with them in the last 15 months. Never sign a blank form from your healthcare provider or equipment supplier. Always read your Medicare Summary Notice or Explanation of Benefits to look for any charges for equipment you do not need or did not receive.

 

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.