When insurance firms launched social media initiatives, the results were rewarding.
CHARLESTON, W.Va., April 1 -- The West Virginia Attorney General issued the following news release:
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is alerting residents to a scam that appears to be circulating throughout the state and region in which a person receives an unsolicited telephone call offering free diabetes testing or other medical supplies.
The Attorney General's Office recently received a report of an elderly woman who was called by a person claiming to work for a "diabetic pharmacy." The caller told the woman she was eligible to receive free diabetes supplies, including new testers. The woman provided the caller with her address and Social Security number, but the supplies were never delivered. When the woman attempted to reach the company at the number provided, no one answered or called her back. The woman cannot find any other means to contact the company, either.
"Scams like this one, which seem to prey on older folks, are terrible," Attorney General Morrisey said. "Many of our senior citizens are on fixed incomes and are looking for help to offset out-of-pocket costs they may have. It's sad there are people who would exploit a person's desire to save money by scamming them, as well as the government, out of thousands of dollars."
While the scam can vary slightly, the end goal is the same. The callers are looking for a person's Medicare numbers, which often is the same as the person's Social Security number. Once the scammers have that number, along with other identifying details such as the person's name and address, they may be able to steal the victim's identity or, in other cases, order health care services or supplies in the victim's name.
"It's important to read over your Medicare statements very carefully," Morrisey said. "Check for things like being billed for items you didn't order or receive, or being billed multiple times for certain items."
Consumers can take a few easy steps to protect themselves and their identities, including:
* Read every statement or letter that comes from your doctor or health insurance provider, even ones that say "this is not a bill." It may be a way to spot charges for treatments you didn't receive or products you didn't order.
* Avoid e-mail or online offers of free testing supplies, which may not be legitimate. Instead, work with your doctor and reputable groups such as the American Diabetes Association to secure low-cost or free supplies.
* If you notice questionable charges on a letter or bill, contact your insurer right away.
* Instead of carrying your health insurance card in your wallet, make a photo copy of it and carry the copy instead. Black out all but the last four digits of your ID number on the copy. Keep your official card in a safe and secure location.
* If you discover your card is missing, notify your provider right away.
If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808, or file a complaint online at www.wvago.gov. If you believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud, call the West Virginia Senior Medicare Patrol at 800-799-4638.
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