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How to Avoid Health Fraud

My elderly mother lives alone and her health is failing. I’m concerned about her being scammed by con artists. What are the most frequent types of health scams experienced by seniors?

Many scams aimed at older adults are associated with health care.  Here are the top scams.

  • Medical alert scam - These types of scams promise a “free” medical alert system via personal or automated phone calls. The scammers often claim the system was “ordered by your doctor” or a “family member already paid for it.” However, those offered the “free” devise were asked to share their bank account or credit information to verify identify. The result was people were charged monthly service fees and never received the alert system.
  • Medical identity theft – This type of theft occurs when a person steals your health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security number. Scammers claim to be with the government and try to get personal information to issue a new Medicare card required by the health-care law.
  • Counterfeit Prescription Drug – These scams operate on the Internet, where seniors increasingly go to find better prices on specialized medications. The danger is that besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase unsafe substances that can inflict even more harm. This scam can be as hard on the body as it is on the wallet.

What can one do to avoid becoming a victim of health fraud?

  • Be skeptical and trust your instincts. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam.  Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision and take time to consult with a knowledgeable health care professional.
  • Protect your personal information and be suspicious of solicitations.  Never share personal information, such as Medicare, Social Security or bank account information with anyone who contacts you at your door, over the phone or by email.  Government officials will not contact you at home, unless you have contacted them first about a problem.
  • Use caution when purchasing drugs on the Internet and only use reputable online pharmacies that have a seal of approval called the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS), provided by the Association of Boards of Pharmacy in the United States.

What should one do if they suspect they are a victim of a health fraud?

The Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division (CPAT) of the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, investigates and prosecutes consumer fraud cases, mediates individual consumer complaints, and educates the public on how to avoid becoming victims of fraud. CPAT enforces the state’s Do-Not-Call laws and is the state’s clearinghouse for identity theft prevention, complaints, and victim assistance.

If you have a consumer problem or question, call CPAT at (701) 328-3404, toll free at (800) 472-2600 or (800) 366-6888 (TTY).  For additional suggestions, see their Health Fraud Tips handout at
http://www.ag.nd.gov/CPAT/CommonScams.htm

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