Great deal on medical equipment -- yeah, right

You many need a wheelchair or walker, but if someone calls saying he or she represents a durable medical equipment company that provides medical supplies, assume the person is a phony.

"DME suppliers are not allowed to 'cold-call' consumers to get orders for supplies," says Roberto.

Get clarity on health care changes

There is the potential for scams as a result of confusion over changes in the nation's health care system. In one recent instance, an insurance broker in California canceled the existing Medicare coverage of her clients and enrolled them into Medicare Advantage plans without their consent. In a traditional Medicare policy, the federal government acts as an enrollee's insurance company, whereas under Medicare Advantage the federal government pays premiums to a private insurer to administer benefits.

"The agent allegedly made misrepresentations while marketing the plans. As a result of the change, older adults ended up with thousands of dollars in unexpected medical bills. In essence, this is deceptive marketing aimed at vulnerable elders," says Roberto. 

Just say no to freebies

Advise your parents not to accept free offers of medical equipment, health services or gift cards from companies. The catch may be that they are asked for their Medicare or Social Security numbers, which scammers can use for fraudulent purposes, including identity theft.

Talk to your parents

Your parents may not suspect they are being manipulated by fraudsters. Johnson suggests that you consider making an agreement with them: When they get a medical statement, you will go over it with them. It also doesn't hurt to go through your parents' credit report for any unpaid medical bills or equipment they didn't receive. Monitor their credit cards for any medical-related charges that shouldn't be there.

Report suspicious activity if you suspect Medicare fraud

If you think someone is trying to scam your parents, speak up. You can check with the health care provider if charges seem wrong or something is amiss. It could be a simple mistake. If it's not and your gut tells you to take matters further, report the questionable charges to Medicare and contact your state attorney, your state insurance commissioner or your local police. You can report suspicious Medicare activity by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477), or you can file a Medicare fraud report online to the federal Office of the Inspector General.

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