Sheriff, banker address ‘Scamboree’ in Clinton

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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.

SMP to present on health care journal on Feb. 22

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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.

8 Senior Financial Scams You Should Never Fall For

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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

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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

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 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

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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

Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program Protects Consumers

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This fact sheet comes from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Affordable Care Act Has Helped the Government Fight Fraud, Strengthen Health Insurance Programs, Protect Consumers, and Save Taxpayer Dollars

The Obama Administration is committed to reducing fraud, waste, and abuse across the government.  Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have been using powerful, new anti-fraud tools to protect Medicare and Medicaid by shifting from a “pay and chase” approach toward fraud prevention. Through the groundbreaking Healthcare Fraud Prevention Partnership, stronger relationships have been built between the government and the private sector to help protect all consumers.

These focused efforts are successful.  In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, the government recovered $2.4 billion as a result of health care fraud judgements, settlements and additional administrative impositions in health care fraud cases and proceedings.  Since its inception in 1997, the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) Program has returned more than $29.4 billion to the Medicare Trust Funds.  In this past fiscal year, the HCFAC program has returned $6.10 for each dollar invested.

The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative between HHS, OIG, and DOJ, has played a critical role in the fight against  health care fraud.

A key component of HEAT is the Medicare Fraud Strike Force – an interagency task force teams comprised of OIG and DOJ analysts, investigators, and prosecutors who target emerging or migrating fraud schemes, including fraud by criminals masquerading as health care providers or suppliers.

Since 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 2,536 individuals involved in more than $8 billion in fraud.  Many of these charges have resulted from coordinated, multi-district national takedowns. In June 2015, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force conducted its largest ever nationwide health care fraud takedown, which, for the first time, involved non-Strike Force participants and resulted in charges against a record 243 individuals for approximately $712 million in false Medicare and Medicaid billing.  Since its inception, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has maintained a conviction rate of approximately 95 percent and an average term of incarceration of more than four years.

Another powerful tool in the effort to combat health care fraud is the federal False Claims Act.  In 2015, DOJ obtained over $1.9 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Since January 2009, DOJ has recovered more than $17.1 billion for the federal government in cases involving health care fraud.  In many of these cases, the department was instrumental in recovering additional billions of dollars for state health care programs.

Other steps the administration has taken to fight fraud include:

State-of-the-Art Fraud Detection Technology:  HCFAC funding also supported HHS OIG’s continued enhancement of data analysis capabilities for detecting health care fraud.  HHS OIG continues to use data analysis, predictive analytics, trend evaluation, and modeling approaches to better analyze and target oversight of HHS programs.  Analysis teams use data to examine Medicare claims for known fraud patterns, identify suspected fraud trends, and calculate ratios of allowed services as compared to national averages; new analytic tools and methods are being developed to perform more innovative and complex data analytics.  Combining the expertise of HHS OIG agents, auditors, and evaluators, as well as our HEAT partners, with data analytics and traditional investigative skills has fostered a highly effective model for fighting health care fraud.

Since June 2011, CMS uses the Fraud Prevention System (FPS) on all Medicare fee-for-service claims on a streaming, national basis.  Similar to the fraud detection technology used by credit card companies, FPS applies predictive analytics to claims before making payments in order to identify aberrant and suspicious billing patterns.  CMS uses leads generated by FPS to trigger actions that can be implemented swiftly.  Early results from FPS show significant promise.  Since 2011 the FPS identified savings (certified by HHS OIG) associated with these prevention and detection actions were $820 million.[1]  This resulted in more than a 10-to-1 return on investment for the first three years of implementation.

Enhanced Provider Screening and Enrollment Requirements:  Provider enrollment is the gateway to billing the Medicare program, and CMS implemented new critical safeguards in efforts to better screen providers enrolling in the Medicare program.  The Affordable Care Act required CMS to revalidate all existing 1.6 million Medicare suppliers and providers under new risk-based screening requirements.  As a result of revalidation and other proactive initiatives, CMS deactivated more than 500,000 enrollments meaning,  billing privileges were stopped for these providers but may be restored upon the submission and approval of an updated enrollment application. CMS also revoked more than 34,000 enrollments meaning, these providers were barred from re-entering the Medicare program for one to three years.  These enhanced screening and enrollment requirements have led to more than $2.4 billion in estimated Medicare savings since 2010.

In May 2014, CMS issued a final rule that requires prescribers of Part D drugs to enroll in Medicare and undergo screening.  In December 2014, CMS issued a final rule that provides additional authority to remove bad actors from the Medicare program, including providers affiliated with outstanding Medicare debts and providers that have a pattern or practice of abusive billing.

Health Care Fraud Prevention Partnership (HFPP):  The Obama Administration has joined with private insurers, states, and associations in the HFPP to prevent health care fraud on a national scale.  To detect and prevent payment of fraudulent billings, HFPP participants exchange information and best practices across the public and private sectors.  Since 2013, the HFPP has conducted eight studies that enabled partners, including DOJ, HHS-OIG, FBI, and CMS, states, private plans, and associations to take substantive actions, such as payment system edits, revocations, and payment suspensions to stop fraudulent payments and improve the government’s collective forces against fraud, waste, and abuse.

Senior Medicare Patrols:  The Obama Administration has expanded funding for Senior Medicare Patrols (SMP) – groups of  volunteers who educate and empower their peers to identify, prevent, and report health care fraud.  In 2014, the  SMP projects had a total of 5,249 active volunteers.  These volunteers conducted 202,862 one-on-one counseling sessions and 14,692 group education sessions.  In total, 452,714 beneficiaries attended these group education sessions.  The projects also reported conducting 110,615 media airings (e.g., print, radio, television, or electronic) to provide education about fraud and the services of the project.  Additionally, the projects reported conducting 12,417 community outreach education events.  Local SMP offices provide assistance when issues are identified, ensuring that mistakes are corrected and suspected fraud is referred to the appropriate authorities.  Since the program’s inception 18 years ago, $122 million in total estimated savings to Medicare and Medicaid is attributable to SMP projects.

 


[1] Note that a portion of the total FPS savings is comprised of payments prevented due to provider revocations. This amount is a subset of the $2.4 billion total prevented payments from revocations reported in section ‘Enhanced Provider Screening and Enrollment Requirements’ of this report.  Therefore, comparison of these two metrics may result in double-counting

Dallas-area doctors charged for roles in $13.4 Million Medicare fraud scheme

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This is being shared from the Healthcare Finance Website

By Beth J. Sanborn, Managing Editor

Two Dallas-area doctors have been charged, according to a superseding indictment that was unsealed Friday, for their alleged participation in a $13.4 million health care fraud scheme that bilked Medicare for millions.

Dr. Kelly Robinett, 66, of Denton County, Texas and Dr. Angel Claudio, 60, of Hood County, Texas were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. They were also charged with multiple counts of health care fraud, announced the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Robinett owns Boomer Housecalls, which is based in Frisco, Texas.  Claudio, a medical doctor, works for Dallas-based Texas Medical Housecalls, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Patience Okoroji, 57, of Dallas County, Usani Ewah, 58, of Dallas County, Kingsley Nwanguma, 45, of Dallas County and Joy Ogwuegbu, 39, of Collin County who are charged in the current indictment, were also charged in a previous indictment that did not include the doctors.

Authorities said Okoroji and Ewah co-owned Timely Home Health Services Inc. (Timely), where Okoroji was an administrator and licensed vocational nurse. Ewah was the director of nursing and a registered nurse for Timely, Nwanguma was a licensed vocational nurse for Timely and Ogwuegbu was its former director of nursing.

The allegations accuse Robinett and Claudio of falsely certifying beneficiaries for home health care when the patients weren’t actually under their care and did not qualify for home health services. The defendants allegedly billed Medicare approximately $13,434,550 based on false home health certification signed by doctors, including Robinett and Claudio, as well as  false and fraudulent claims for home health services, said the U.S. Attorney’s office.

 

‘Are You Smarter Than a Scam Artist’ scheduled for Rich Hill, MO

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RICH HILL — The Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) will present “Are You Smarter Than a Scam Artist?” to highlight Fraud Prevention Month.  The fun, interactive game will be presented at 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 11, at the Kern Senior Center, 613 Park Avenue, in Rich Hill.

The presentation explores some of the most common scams that fraudsters are likely to perpetrate. The Missouri SMP is highlighting March as International Fraud Prevention Month. The SMP program, also known as Senior Medicare Patrol program, helps Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries prevent, detect, and report health care fraud.

In doing so, the program helps older people and promotes integrity in Medicare. In Missouri, the program has 80 volunteers, most of whom are Medicare beneficiaries themselves and are thus well-positioned to assist their peers.

If you would like to know more about the program, call Roary Hutt at 1-800-748-7826. If you believe you may have been the victim of healthcare fraud, contact the Missouri SMP hotline at 888-515-6565.

The Missouri SMP is operated in Missouri by Care Connection for Aging Services in partnership with the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging. SMPs are funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Administration on Aging.

 

 

 

 

Missouri SMP publishes March fraud prevention fact

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The Missouri SMP is publishing monthly Fraud Prevention Facts to remind people of the most recent scams and the ways to protect themselves against them. Here is the March 2016 Fraud fact.

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.