Sheriff, banker address ‘Scamboree’ in Clinton

Print Friendly

Among the rip-offs facing seniors are the IRS scam and the grandparents scam, Henry County Sheriff Kent Oberkrom told a group at the Clinton Senior Center.
Both of these scams involve imposters phoning unsuspected consumers and trying to get money or personal information.
More than 40 seniors gathered at the Clinton Senior Center Friday to arm themselves against scammers and fraudsters at a “Scamboree” sponsored by the Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).
In the IRS scam, fraudsters call a taxpayer and demand he give a credit card or other form of payment immediately – or face arrest by the local sheriff’s or police department.
“That’s not going to happen,” Oberkrom told the group. “The IRS will not call you, and the IRS will not use local authorities to collect back taxes.”
In what’s known as the grandparent scam, a fraudster will use Facebook or other sources to find out enough about the victims to pose as a friend of a grandchild or other relative. The scammer usually is frantic, telling the victims that the grandchild is in trouble – injured or in jail – and needs money immediately. The goal is to unnerve the victims and prompt them to send money without thinking through the situation.
People who receive such phone calls should hang up and report them, the sheriff said.
“If you get scammed, you should report it. These people can be caught. If you don’t report these things, we cannot alert more people about it,” he said.
The sheriff said authorities work with merchants who sell money-grams or gift cards to be on the lookout for seniors who unknowingly may be sending their money to scammers.
“We try to educate, and a lot of these things will get headed off,” Oberkrom said.
Oberkrom was one of several speakers at the Scamboree event.
Dave Garnett, Regional President of Hawthorn Bank, encouraged the audience to embrace technology as a more secure method of conducting financial transactions.
“Don’t be afraid of these things,” Garnett said of banking via debit cards and the Internet.
Federal regulations require banks to provide more protection to consumers who conduct business on the Internet and using debit cards than to those who use paper checks and cash. That means it’s easier to get money refunded if someone steals bank your account numbers.
“Your paper check actually does have information on it that would be useful to a scammer,” he said, pointing out at that each check has a routing and account number. “If you do use paper checks, don’t use your mailbox at home to send them; use the U.S. Postal Service mailbox so that it’s less likely those are going to be intercepted.”
The Scamboree event, co-sponsored by the senior center and Missouri SMP, is one of several statewide activities to help seniors protect themselves against fraud. The mission of the Missouri SMP is to empower and assist Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers to prevent, detect, and report healthcare fraud, errors, and abuse through outreach, counseling, and education. For more information, call 888-515-6565.

April 2017 Fraud Prevention Fact

Print Friendly

The Missouri SMP wants you to be a wise consumer when it comes to your everyday health care. That probably means avoiding health screenings offered by strangers in malls, church basements or trailer offices.

For example, Medicare pays for an Annual Wellness Visit every year. The visit includes a health risk assessment based on medical history, risk factors for depression, functional ability, falls risk, and cognitive function. These health issues are best discussed with your own personal physician.

The Senior Medicare Patrol has received reports that companies are using aggressive phone calls and flyers to advertise services available for a short time in a temporary location. They say they offer prevention screenings, and often offer additional tests, which have out-of-pocket costs. When the beneficiaries go to the temporary clinic, they are asked for their Medicare information. Without the beneficiaries’ knowledge, the clinic bills Medicare for the Annual Wellness Visit. When the beneficiary goes to his own doctor for that Wellness Visit, Medicare denies the claim because the mobile clinic has already charged for it. Medicare will pay for only one each year.

If you need a screening, always call your doctor first.  Always be wary of health providers that offer free screenings and ask for your Medicare number and insurance information.  Don’t give your Medicare or insurance information for a free service. You could wind up with expensive bills or tests you don’t need. And, if Medicare pays for something you don’t need, it may not pay later for services that you really do need.

If you suspect Medicare fraud or abuse, call the Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol at (888) 515-6565.  SMPs are funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Administration on Aging.

SMP to present on health care journal on Feb. 22

Print Friendly

The Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) will give a short presentation on how Medicare beneficiaries can keep track of their health care information and help prevent fraud.

The presentation will be 12:30 p.m. Feb. 22 in the dining room of the Warrensburg Senior Center, 445 E. Gay. It will be free and open to the public.

Participants will receive a free copy of the SMP Personal Health Care Journal, which helps seniors keep track of their health care information.

The journal has pages that help people keep track of appointments, providers, medica- tions, blood pressure and other health data, as well as questions to be answered, preventive screenings covered, and services received.

Keeping records makes it easier for consumers to compare medical bills to explanations of benefits and Medicare Summary Notices. That practice is key to detecting and preventing Medicare fraud and abuse, which costs an estimated $60 billion annually, according to the Na- tional SMP Resource Center.

“These fraud estimates, which break down to about $6.8 million an hour, make benefi- ciaries essential in fighting Medicare fraud and abuse,” said Rona McNally, Director of the Missouri SMP. “We believe the Health Care Journal is a powerful tool for seniors.”

To find out more, call the SMP at 888-515-6565.

January Fraud Prevention Fact: Take care of yourself!

Print Friendly

Happy New Year from the Missouri SMP! If you are like many folks, you have made some resolutions to take better care of yourself in this new year. Now more than ever, Medicare insurance can help you keep that promise.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, millions of people with Medicare have taken advantage of expanded benefits. These include preventive services, cancer screenings, and yearly wellness visits. Many of these are available without additional costs to you.

One way you can stay healthy is to get disease prevention and early detection services. These include exams, shots, lab tests, screenings, monitoring, and counseling. If you take advantage of such services, your doctor can find health problems early when they are most treatable. Proper preventive medicine can keep you from getting some diseases as well.

The best source to find out which of these services you need is your doctor or health care provider. You also may check online at medicare-dot-gov to find a two-year calendar of Medicare-covered tests and screenings.

As always, check your Medicare Summary Notices or Explanation of Benefits to make sure you received the services for which Medicare is billed. Report suspected Medicare fraud to the Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol at (888) 515-6565.

SMPs are funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Administration on Aging.

Ambulance Company Owner and Brother Convicted in $6 Million Health Care Fraud Conspiracy

Print Friendly
Here is a news release that the Missouri SMP wants to share with our readers. Please be aware of scam artists and how they bilk Medicare. It affects us all.
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – Two brothers have been convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Kevin Olufemi Davies, 29, and his brother Melvin Olusola Davies, 28, owned and operated KMD Healthcare Services Inc. (KMD) from their home in a gated townhouse community in Houston. As part of their guilty pleas, they admitted they used stand-in emergency medical technicians (EMT) who were not employees or affiliated with KMD to pass the state inspection necessary for enrollment in the Medicare program.

Medicare and Medicaid only pay for medically necessary ambulance services in vehicles designed and equipped to respond to medical emergencies and for patients who cannot be safely transported by any other means of transportation. Medicare also requires two individuals to staff ambulance transports, including at least one licensed EMT.

The brothers admitted that KMD transported Medicare beneficiaries in private passenger vans and that only one EMT was present. The EMTs wrote up ambulance “run sheets” even though the Medicare beneficiaries did not travel by ambulance and did not need ambulance services. The individuals transported were not bed bound, could walk and routinely used non-ambulance transport in their daily activities. One patient even walked to her own therapy session, but KMD billed Medicare $51,952 for her ambulance transportation.

The brothers admitted they paid a Houston physician $500 per medical necessity order in order to bill Medicare.

KMD billed Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare (another government health program) approximately $6,293,108 in false and fraudulent claims for ambulance services that were not provided and not medically necessary. They received at least $2,201,137 from Medicare, $219,924 from Medicaid and $16,735.29 from Tricare as payment for those claims.

The brothers have agreed to forfeit vehicles they purchased with the fraudulent health care proceeds, including a 2010 Porsche Panamera and a 2012 Mercedes Benz CLS. They have also agreed to pay full restitution to the health care programs.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes accepted the pleas today and has set sentencing for March 13, 2017. At that time, the Davies face up to 10 years in federal prison on each count of conviction as well as a possible $250,000 fine. Both defendants have been in federal custody since their arrest on May 25, 2016, where they will remain pending that hearing.

The FBI, IRS – Criminal Investigation, Texas Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger is prosecuting the case.

Jury Finds Doctor Guilty in Largest-Ever Home Health Care Fraud

Print Friendly

Here is a story from Home Health Care News about one who got caught, but not before perpetrating nearly $375 million in health care fraud.

By Mary Kate Nelson | April 17, 2016

A Dallas physician and three home health agency owners have been found guilty of committing the nation’s largest home health care fraud involving a single doctor.

Jacques Roy, a 58-year-old physician from Rockwall, Texas, and three owners of Texas home health agencies—Cynthia Stiger of Dallas, Wilbert James Veasey, Jr. of Dallas and Charity Eleda of Rowlett—were found guilty on April 13 of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, stemming from their roles in an almost $375 million health care fraud scheme, the Department of Justice announced.

Roy, Veasey, Stiger and Eleda were each convicted by a federal jury on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Additionally, Roy was convicted on eight counts of health care fraud, two counts of making a false statement relating to health care matters and one count of obstruction of justice.

Veasey and Eleda were convicted on three and four counts of health care fraud, respectively, and Eleda was also convicted on three counts of making false statements for use in determining rights of benefit and payment by Medicare.

Roy has been in federal custody since his arrest on February 28, 2012. He owned and operated Medistat Group Associates, P.A., an association of health care providers that provided home health certifications and conducted home visits with patients. Veasey and Stiger, who owned and operated Apple of Your Eye Healthcare Services, Inc., and Eleda, who owned and operated Charry Home Care Services, Inc., were arrested on charges in the same indictment as Roy.

During the six-week-long trial, the government presented evidence that Roy, Veasey, Stiger and Eleda engaged in a large-scale, sophisticated health care fraud scheme during which they schemed together and with others to defraud Medicaid and Medicare through agencies they controlled or owned.

Veasey, Stiger and Eleda, as part of the conspiracy, worked with others to improperly recruit people with Medicare coverage to sign up for Medicare home health care services, the DOJ said. Eleda recruited patients from a homeless shelter in Dallas, at times paying recruiters $50 per beneficiary they found and directed to her car parked beyond the shelter’s gates. Eleda and other nurses would falsify medical documents to make it seem as though those beneficiaries qualified for home health care services that were actually medically unnecessary. Eleda and the nurses also prepared Plans of Care (POC) that were not medically necessary, and these POCs were delivered to Roy or a different doctor working under his direction at Medistat.

Roy, then, instructed his staff to certify these POCs, which indicated to Medicaid and Medicare that a physician, usually Roy, had reviewed the treatment plan and found it medically necessary. That certifying doctor, usually Roy, certified that the patient needed home health services, which were only allowed to be provided to those individuals who were homebound and required skilled nursing, among other things. This process was repeated for thousands of POCs, and Medistat’s office actually had a “485 Department,” essentially a “boiler room” to affix fraudulent certifications and signatures, the DOJ said.

Once an individual was wrongly certified for home health care services, Eleda, nurses who worked for Veasey and Stiger, and other nurses falsified visit notes to make it seem as though skilled nursing services were being provided and remained necessary. Roy would also visit the patients, perform unnecessary home visits, and then order medically unnecessary services for the recruited beneficiaries. Then, under Roy’s orders, Medistat employees would submit fraudulent claims to Medicare for the certification and recertification of unnecessary home health care services and additional unnecessary medical services.

The scope of Roy’s fraud was huge: Medistat processed and approved POCs for 11,000 unique Medicare beneficiaries from over 500 different home health agencies, the DOJ said. Roy entered into informal and formal fraudulent arrangements with Charry, Apple, Ultimate and other home health agencies to guarantee his fraudulent business model worked and that he maintained a steady stream of Medicare beneficiaries.

Sentencings for those found guilty are scheduled for this fall, the DOJ said. Each health care fraud and conspiracy count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of justice count and each false statement count carry a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison, as well as a $250,000 fine.

Three additional defendants who had been charged in the case—Cyprian Akamnonu and his wife, registered nurse Patricia Akamnonu, and Teri Sivils—each pleaded guilty before trial to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Sivils, who was the office manager at Medistat, pleaded guilty in April 2015, and is expected to be sentenced in June. Cyprian and Patricia Akamnonu, who owned Ultimate Care Home Health Services, Inc., are now each serving a 10-year federal prison sentence. They were also ordered to pay a $25 million fine.

8 Senior Financial Scams You Should Never Fall For

Print Friendly

Austin Kilham provides this important information from seniorhomes.com

One day you get a call informing you that you’ve won a cash prize, or an invitation to buy into an investment that outperforms the market, or an email telling you that your medical insurer needs your insurance ID. Scenarios like these should raise red flags. While some of the time they may be legitimate, oftentimes these are scams.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, so too do unscrupulous scammers.

“The stereotype is that older adults have more money,” says Brandy Bauer, communications manager for economic security at the National Council on Aging. “That, coupled with the perception that seniors are in cognitive decline, means that older people are a target for economic exploitation.”

Falling victim to a scam can have real consequences. Seniors are often living on a fixed income and don’t have the time to recover and rebuild their savings should fraud lead to a large financial loss, says Bauer.

That said, for many of these scams to work, scammers want you to hand over your personal information. Knowing the red flags to look out for can help you avoid giving out the information they desperately need, protecting you and your assets from falling into the wrong hands.

“The key to avoiding many scams is to stay educated and to continuously monitor your accounts for suspicious activity,” says Liz Loewy, former chief of the elder abuse unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office who is now senior vice president for industry relations at EverSafe a service that helps protect seniors from fraud and identity theft.

When in doubt about whether an offer or request is legitimate, it’s best to have a trusted family member or friend take a look, Loewy says.

“It never hurts to have a trusted advocate serve as a second set of eyes,” she says.

What follows are some of the most common scams targeting seniors today.

1. Phone Scams
Scams that take place over the phone are one of the most common types to affect seniors. Some current schemes include people posing as IRS agents to collect personal information (the IRS does not contact you over the phone) and scammers pretending to be technicians from computer companies claiming to have detected a problem with your computer. With little way of verifying a caller’s identify, avoid giving out any personal information over the phone.

Once on the phone, it can be hard for many seniors to say no to caller requests. To avoid being put in an uncomfortable position in the first place, consider screening calls on cell phones and landlines with caller ID. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t pick up.

2. Medicare and Health Insurance Scams
Beware of people posing as medical professionals who request your medical information over the phone or online. Scammers can use your health insurance ID number and other personal information to fraudulently bill Medicare or insurance companies. In the meantime, you could get saddled with copays and percentage-based fees for care you never received.

Also be wary of companies selling durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, and claims that they’re covered by Medicaid. Since Medicaid has strict rules about which agencies you can use to acquire medical equipment, oftentimes this type of equipment is not actually covered.

Don’t provide your medical information to anyone unless you are 100 percent sure you know who you’re talking to. Review your insurance statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.

3. Internet and Email Scams
Watch out for pop-ups on your computer, phone or tablet that ask you to download things like virus protection software. Ironically, you may actually be downloading a virus that will mine your computer for personal data.

Similarly, you may receive official-looking emails telling you to download something or click on an unknown link. “Phishing” scammers often use this tactic, and once you click, the scammer is given a porthole into the information stored on your computer. What’s worse, sometimes simply opening these emails is enough to give scammers access to your data.

Before opening any emails, make sure they’re from a legitimate source that you recognize. In general, before entering any personal information online, look for a padlock symbol in your browser bar (near the URL) or a web address that includes HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. Any information you type into a website that includes these markers is encrypted and protected by the website.

4. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
Scammers may inform you that you’re the winner of a sweepstakes or lottery prize, and that all you have do to claim your prize is pay a processing fee or taxes upfront. They may go so far as to send a fake check for you to cash, knowing that it will take a few days for your bank to reject it. In the meantime, the fraudster can pocket your money and disappear.

5. Investment Schemes
Seniors managing their finances after retirement may encounter investments that sound too good to be true. That’s because a lot of the time, they are. Investments that purport to be a limited-time offer or claim returns that are higher than the market—think the Bernie Madoff pyramid scheme—should raise red flags for any investor. Make sure you fully understand any kind of investment you’re considering participating in.

6. Asset Recovery Scams
An insidious and increasingly common scheme, asset recovery scams target older adults who have already been the victim of a scam. For example, a perpetrator might contact a senior taken in by a timeshare scam, promising to help the senior recover some of their lost money. The scammers then collect personal information from the senior that gives them access to the senior’s finances — victimizing them twice.

7. Social Media Scams
Increasingly, seniors are on social media, and that means a lot of their personal information is readily available to the public. If you’re on social media, scammers may find photographs of friends and family members, gathering names and other information. Then they contact you, claiming that one of the people you know is in some kind of financial trouble and needs you to send them money. Protect your information on social media by changing privacy settings so that only family and friends can view your profile.

8. Charity Scams
During the end of the year, the holiday season, or after a well-publicized disaster, some scammers try to take advantage of seniors’ charitable instincts by soliciting money for bogus organizations. Before giving, make sure to vet all charities to make sure they are legitimate and that your money will actually go to help those in need.

Social Security issues phone fraud alert

Print Friendly
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2016
Social Security Inspector General Patrick P. O’Carroll is warning citizens to be aware of phone calls from unknown people who claim to have information about a citizen’s application for disability benefits and offer assistance with the citizen’s claim.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) received a report from a Maryland citizen who recently received several of these phone calls, even though the citizen had not applied for disability benefits.
The callers appear to be “phishing” for personal information—such as Social Security numbers or personal financial information—from unknowing citizens, who possibly have applied for disability benefits and thus might be inclined to provide information to the caller in furtherance of his or her claim.  One person, who had not applied for disability benefits, reported recently receiving three unsolicited calls from a caller named Scott from a phone number with a 301 area code.

Consumer Alert: Scammers Change Tactics, Once Again

Print Friendly

 This information is being provided by the IRS. Please take note.

 WASHINGTON — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but now the IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone.

The latest variation being seen in the last few weeks tries to play off the current tax season. Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.

“These schemes continue to adapt and evolve in an attempt to catch people off guard just as they are preparing their tax returns,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t be calling you out of the blue asking you to verify your personal tax information or aggressively threatening you to make an immediate payment.”

The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that continually change. The IRS, the states and the tax industry came together in 2015 and launched a public awareness campaign called Taxes. Security. Together. to help educate taxpayers about the need to maintain security online and to recognize and avoid “phishing” and other schemes.

The IRS continues to hear reports of phone scams as well as e-mail phishing schemes across the country.

“These schemes touch people in every part of the country and in every walk of life. It’s a growing list of people who’ve encountered these. I’ve even gotten these calls myself,” Koskinen said.

This January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 phone scam contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam. Just this year, the IRS has seen a 400 percent increase in phishing schemes.

Protect Yourself

Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via aphishing email. They’ve even begun politely asking taxpayers to verify their identity over the phone.

Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

Here are some things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.
  • Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or e-mail.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money or to verify your identity, here’s what you should do:

If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax:

  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.

Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Scammers spoofing FBI phone numbers to fool victims

Print Friendly

Please click on this link to see the latest from the FBI regarding scammers on the phone.

SCAMMERS SPOOFING FBI PHONE NUMBERS TO FOOL VICTIMS 3.18.16

This website was supported in part by a grant No. 90-SP-0025 from the Administration on Aging (AoA), Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Grantees carrying out projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Therefore, points of view or opinions do not necessarily represent official AoA, ACL, or DHHS policy.