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BBB says beware of firms peddling unwanted braces, billing Medicare

By TIM FERAN • Dec 28, 2017 at 9:00 AM

COLUMBUS — Scammers don’t take the holidays off, and the Better Business Bureau is alerting elderly and disabled residents and their caregivers to beware of unsolicited phone calls and cards from unscrupulous people looking to bill Medicare and insurance for back braces, neck braces and knee braces.

One Columbus man told the consumer bureau that such knee braces “are sent regularly to our home” for his elderly mother.

“Sending them back is almost impossible because when I contact the companies they say they can’t send me a shipping label without the doctor’s name,” he said. “Her doctor didn’t order these braces, so we’re stuck with the brace and a charge on her Medicare statement. I called Medicare, they didn’t have any suggestions. I called my insurance company and they said they’d look into it. That's when I called BBB.”

The scam works this way: You answer the phone, and the caller pretends to be a Medicare representative. They then either offer you a brace through Medicare or claim a caregiver previously called about receiving a brace from Medicare.

Then the telemarketer asks for personal information, such as your Social Security number or Medicare number to access benefits.

But the callers offer no company name and may even hang up on you if you ask for their contact information.

The protect yourself from such calls, the bureau offers some tips:

• Never give out personal information over the phone, especially if it is from an unsolicited caller. If consumers receive a suspicious phone call, they should hang up immediately and report it to the Better Business Bureau.

• Don’t do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you medical services or equipment are free.

• Remind elderly family members that Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information. Medicare, Medicaid and the Social Security Administration will not call you to update information or issue a new card.

• Give your insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services like a doctor's office, clinic or hospital, but never do so over the phone.

• Keep accurate records of all health-care appointments to prevent fraud involving Medicare/Medicaid information provided to doctors or caregivers.

• Treat your Medicare number like your credit-card information or other personal details. Do not share it with unsolicited callers.

To learn more about scams, or to report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us.

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(c)2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

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