Financial scams targeting seniors is a rapidly growing form of elder abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, there are an estimated five million cases of financial abuse in the United States each year, but only 1 in 25 cases are reported to law enforcement or government officials. Premier Home Health Care Services, Inc., is committed to helping to protect our clients. It’s important to be aware of the scams out there – and how you can work together with your health care aid to protect yourself.
Financial elder abuse is broadly defined as illegal or improper use of a vulnerable senior’s money or other property. The American Associated of Retired Persons (AARP) recently reported that people over the age of 50 can be easier targets for financial abuse since they generally expect honesty in the marketplace and are less likely to take action if they are defrauded.
The FBI states that elderly victims are “less likely to report fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed.” Some may also be reluctant to report financial fraud for fear that they may be seen as not having the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
We have outlined some common fraud schemes and offer tips for avoiding these types of scams:
Health Care Fraud/Health Insurance Fraud
Below are a few common Medicare fraud schemes to watch out for, particularly medical equipment fraud, which offers potential victims something “free” in exchange for someone’s Medicare number. A physician must sign a form to certify the equipment or testing is medically necessary before Medicare pays for it; scammers fake signatures or bribe corrupt doctors to sign the forms.
- Medical Equipment Fraud – Equipment manufacturers offer you “free” products, and then charge your insurance company for products that you never needed or were never delivered.
- Rolling Lab Scheme – Victims receive unnecessary or fake tests at retirement homes, health clubs or shopping malls and receive bills from their insurance companies or Medicare.
- Services not performed – Customers or providers bill insurance companies for services never performed – either changing bills or submitting fake ones.
Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Health Care or Insurance Fraud:
- Never sign blank insurance claim forms.
- Never give your medical provider a blanket authorization to bill for services rendered.
- Always carefully review your insurer’s explanation of benefits and call your insurer with any discrepancies.
- Do not conduct business with telephone or door-to-door salespeople who tell you that medical services or equipment is free.
- Only give your insurance or Medicare identification to those who have provided you with medical services.
- Know ahead of time if your physician has ordered equipment for you.
- Keep accurate health care records.
Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Counterfeit Prescription Scams
- Closely examine packaging and lot numbers of your prescriptions and be mindful of the appearance by paying attention to any changes from one prescription to the next.
- Use caution when purchasing medication on the Internet. Never purchase from unlicensed online distributors or anyone who sells medication without a prescription. Look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) seal of approval the Association of Boards of Pharmacy in the United States provides. This will ensure that they are a reputable online pharmacy.
- Consult your pharmacist or physician if your prescription appears suspect.
- Immediately alert your pharmacist or physician if your medication causes adverse side effects or your condition does not improve.
- Be aware of “special deals” that may be associated with counterfeit product promotion.
Funeral and Cemetery Fraud
Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Funeral and Cemetery Fraud:
- Bring a friend or relative with you during this difficult time to help.
- Research options before meeting with a funeral home.
- Ask questions about the difference between basic fees and any fees for additional services at funeral homes.
- Embalming rules, governed by state law, are not legally required for direct cremations.
- Carefully read through all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing, and be sure to understand the cancellation and refund terms. Do not feel pressured to sign contracts or commit to any payments.
Fraudulent “Anti-Aging” Products
Dos and Don’ts for Avoiding “Anti-Aging” Product Scams:
- Watch out for “secret formulas” or “breakthroughs.” If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Research products thoroughly and ask questions about each product and what to expect from it.
- Call the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to inquire about the product’s track record.
- Beware of products that claim to cure a wide variety of unrelated illnesses (or claim that physician’s visits are unnecessary).
- Avoid products that are advertised as not having any side effects.
- Consult with your physician before taking any dietary or nutritional supplements.
- Be aware that testimonials and/or celebrity endorsements can be misleading.
Telemarketing fraud is big business. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that dishonest telemarketers scam an estimated $40 billion each year, swindling one in six American consumers. The AARP reports that about 80 percent of these consumers are age 50 or older. Scammers posing as telemarketers target this age group, particularly older women. Experts at the FBI recommend saying, “No thank you,” and hanging up the phone if you hear these or similar phrases from telephone salespeople:
- “You must act now, or the offer won’t be good.”
- “You’ve won a free gift vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.
- “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” (You may hear these phrases before you have had time to carefully consider the offer.)
- “You can’t afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk offer.”
- “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone or any family member.”
Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Telemarketing Fraud
- Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company until you’ve checked them out with your local consumer protection agency, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. It’s important to note that not all bad businesses can be identified through these agencies or organizations. Ask for more information. Legitimate businesses will be willing to give you more information about how they operate.
- Always obtain the salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address and business license (if applicable) so you can verify the accuracy.
- Don’t pay in advance for services.
- Never pay for a “free” prize. A caller is violating federal law if they tell you the payment is for taxes.
- Never send money or give out personal information (such as credit card numbers with expiration dates, bank account numbers, your date of birth, or social security number) to unfamiliar companies or individuals.
Today’s seniors are more active on the internet, which increases their chances of becoming victims of internet fraud. Some examples include non-delivery of items ordered online and credit and debit card scams. Fake anti-virus scams are also widespread. These encourage consumers to download a fake program that could potentially harm their computer and compromise their personal information. For more information on internet fraud and tips for protecting yourself from them, please visit the FBI’s Internet Fraud webpage: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/internet_fraud.
Investment schemes that target seniors are not new and are aimed at those planning for their retirement and managing savings for the golden years. Pyramid schemes, advance fee and prime bank schemes top the charts as some of the most common investment schemes today. For more information about these crimes (along with tips for protecting yourself from them), please visit the FBI’s Common Fraud Schemes webpage: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/fraud.
Reverse Mortgage Scams
Reverse mortgages, or home equity conversion mortgages (HECM), have increased at a rapid rate, making it the perfect opportunity for fraud perpetrators to steal equity from innocent homeowners. A stern warning from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) urges consumers (especially seniors) to be vigilant when shopping for a reverse mortgage. Seniors have been known to be targeted through their local churches and investment seminars, along with a barrage of television and radio advertisements, billboards and mailers.
Dos and Don’ts to Avoid a Reverse Mortgage Scam
- Don’t respond to unsolicited reverse mortgage advertisements.
- Don’t sign anything you don’t understand. Ask questions.
- Be skeptical if someone claims you can own your home with no money down.
- Do not accept payment for a home you did not purchase.
- Find your own reverse mortgage counselor.
If you believe you’re a victim of this kind of fraud and would like to file a complaint, you can file your information through the FBI’s electronic tip line or through your local FBI office. You may also file a complaint with HUD’s hotline at 1-800-347-3735.
If you believe you’ve been targeted in any kind of scam, speak with your Premier Home Health Care, Inc. care management team. We are here to help you and your family as a trusted ally.
We hope you have found this information on protecting yourself against financial fraud helpful. To learn more about Premier Home Health Care Services, Inc., please call 1-866-648-5119.