Scammers targeting Medicare patients through promise of ‘free’ back, knee braces

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville orthopaedic clinic is issuing a warning about scammers who are targeting Medicare recipients with the promise of “free” back or knee braces.

These schemes are a concern because what con artists are after is stealing your Medicare and medical insurance information that can result in identity theft.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare says some beneficiaries are receiving unsolicited calls, as well as unwanted or unneeded braces; he’s looking into it and hearing from those affected.

Pauline uses a back brace to ease her arthritis pain. We reported two years ago this brace was sent after getting unsolicited calls.

“They called me and said I was eligible for a back brace and Medicare would pay for it at no cost to me,” Pauline said.

The brace came from a legitimate medical equipment company. Last year, we reported on Nancy’s experience when she was sent two packages from medical supply companies.

“She started asking the same information, my birth date,” Nancy said.

Just like Pauline, Nancy received unsolicited calls, several on the same day.

“Ten o’clock in the morning they’d start,” Nancy said. “‘We’re calling you from Medicare. We would like to find out about your pain, your back pain.'”

Kristy Parker, from Tennessee Othopaedic Clinic, says some of their patients have recently received some scam calls, “And that caller is going to try to obtain the Medicare ID number from the patient.”

Kristy Parker also said patients have told them these callers claim to be from from Tennessee Othopaedic Clinic and “they’ve identified that person as eligible for free knee of back bracing.”

Scammers spoof phone numbers to make them appear they are calling from real othopaedic clinics. Those targeted — anyone who receives Medicare benefits.

“People need to be aware that physicians offices aren’t going to call and ask for information such as a Medicare ID number or date of birth. If you are an established patient, we have there is no need for us to call and ask for that over the phone,” Kristy Parker said.

Several government anti-fraud units are after the scammers. The Health and Human Services Office has issued this alert.

People are reaching out to Medicare beneficiaries to offer medical equipment such as braces, wheelchairs and diabetic test strips,” Gary Cantrell, Deputy Inspector General  for Special Investigations, said. “Some of these individuals are fraudsters who ask for your Medicare number or other personal information. They will then send you medical equipment you do not need while billing Medicare in your name.”

Medicare says if someone calls saying they’re from Medicare offering free braces — hang up.

Never give your Medicare or other personal information over the phone to anyone asking for it. Sellers on the phone, don’t know what you need, If you need any type of medical equipment talk to your doctor.

“If you have any questions, you can call us,” Kristy Parker said. “If you are a patient of ours and wondering did my doctor really order this? Is this something I’m supposed to work through with you?  Give us a call, we will get it straightened out.”

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