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Spot and avoid scams involving diabetes supplies

Free diabetes supplies are always welcome, right? That's what scammers are counting on. If you get a call out of the blue from someone who wants to send you free items in exchange for personal or financial information, you are talking to a scam artist.

Watch out for this phone scam about diabetes supplies

The Office of the Inspector General has alerted diabetes patients to a new scam that seeks to obtain your Medicare information in order to send you 'free' Medicare supplies. They promise to send the supplies and in exchange, they request your Medicare or financial information, or ask you to confirm information they already have. They might even send you items that you never requested or authorized.

This scam is especially sinister in that it targets the elderly and obtains information that could be used for many nefarious purposes. "It is important to note that the federal government still uses people's Social Security number as their Medicare number despite the fact that this practice facilitates identity theft," warned Steven Weisman, a Senior Lecturer, Law, Taxation, and Financial Planning at Bentley University and the author of The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

What can you do if you get this call?

"You should always remember that Medicare will not call offering free supplies," Weisman said. "You also should never give out personal information on the phone to anyone you have not called or are not totally convinced are legitimate."

The Office of the Inspector General recommends the following action if you get a call asking for personal information in order to obtain "free" diabetes supplies:

  1. Do not reveal or confirm personal information.
  2. Report the call to law enforcement. Provide as much information about the call as possible.
  3. Look for anything out of the ordinary on your Medicare bills and summaries.
  4. Do not accept any items that you did not order. Record the sender's information, then send the items back. Contact the Office of the Inspector General with this information.

What if you have already fallen into the trap?

"People who suspect that they might have been scammed should regularly and carefully check their Medicare Summary Notice and make sure that there are no charges on their 'free' items," Weisman advised. "It is important to continually check your Medicare Summary Notices because scammers may make multiple charges."

If you find something odd on your Medicare Summary Notice, immediately report the problem to your health care provider and the Office of the Inspector General at 800-HHS-TIPS. You can also do this online at www.OIG.HHS.gov/fraud/hotline.

What if they had a more sinister reason for obtaining your social security number? "You should also be concerned about identity theft. so it would make sense to put a credit freeze on your credit report with each of the three major credit reporting agencies," Weisman said. "This will effectively lock up access to your credit unless you authorize it."

Finally, remember that no matter how friendly and honest the person on the other end of the line seems to be, don't buy into the hype. "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is," Weisman said.

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