The promise of "free" back, neck, or knee braces might sound enticing to those in need of such devices. Unfortunately, Tennessee consumers end up paying when they're duped by Medicare swindlers who are after consumers' money and personal information.
The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs today urges consumers to be on the lookout for Medicare scammers who use harassing and unsolicited phone calls, postcards or other advertisements offering back, neck, or knee braces that would be paid for by Medicare.
Scammers aim to bill the government for unnecessary medical equipment, steal Medicare recipients' personal information, or both. While Medicare does usually cover the cost of such braces, that is only in cases where the brace has been approved and ordered by a doctor, not through an unsolicited phone call.
How the scam often works:
The caller claims to be a Medicare representative or a representative from a medical supply company or health insurance company. The scammer may ask if you have back, neck, or knee pain. The caller may claim that you can receive a free brace or that your doctor previously called about you receiving a brace from Medicare.
If you show interest, the scammer will ask for sensitive information such as your Medicare number or Social Security Number.
By bombarding consumers with multiple calls a day, the scammers try to exhaust the consumer's patience to the point they agree to order the brace just to stop the harassing calls.
Even if you refuse the brace, the scammer may try to convince you to provide personal information in order to be removed from their contact list.
Consider the following tips to help protect your sensitive information:
Be wary of advertisements or callers who offer free back, neck, or knee braces. Medicare will not call with unsolicited offers of products or services.
Try to avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. Be aware that scammers can use Caller ID Spoofing technology to mask their true phone number from appearing on your Caller ID. Instead of answering, let the call go to voicemail. A caller from a legitimate company will generally leave a voicemail, requesting you return their call.
Your personal physician should participate in your medical decisions. Never allow a doctor you've never met to prescribe any medications, medical equipment or home health care services.
Do not accept items that you did not order. Refuse the delivery and/or return it to the sender. Keep a record of the sender's name and the date you returned the items.
If you are unsure whether a call or offer is from Medicare, or if you gave your personal information to someone claiming to be with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE to report it.
If you are unsure of what tests, items, or services your current plan covers, visit the "Your Medicare Coverage" page on the official Medicare website. Consumers can also access Medicare's "What's Covered" application on their smartphone.
Always read your Medicare Summary of Notice (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to look for any charges for equipment you do not need or did not receive.
To report suspected Medicare fraud:
Call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.
Report it online to the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Call the Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-866-836-7677.
Call the Office of the Inspector General at 1‑800‑HHS‑TIPS (1‑800‑447‑8477). TTY: 1‑800‑377‑4950.
For additional resources on protecting yourself from Medicare fraud, visit Tennessee's Senior Medicare Patrol and your local Area Agency on Aging and Disability. In addition, reporting to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker can help others become aware of scams that may be circulating in your local area.