Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Lucky for us, fellow D-blogger and journalist Mike Hoskins is on the case.
As if we PWDs (people with diabetes) didn't have enough to keep our minds busy with daily blood sugar tests, health insurance coverage headaches and finding the time to read all the D-blogs and #dsma tweets, apparently now also have think about something else in our homes on a daily basis: fraud.
The Office of the Inspector General within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that PWDs are the new target of aggressive scams.
A March 13 news release from the federal agency says, "Although the precise method may vary, the scheme generally involves someone pretending to be from the Government, a diabetes association, or even Medicare, calling you. The caller offers 'free' diabetic supplies, such as glucose meters, diabetic test strips, or lancets. The caller may also offer other supplies such as heating pads, lift seats, foot orthotics, or joint braces, in exchange forthe beneficiaries' Medicare or financial information, or confirmation of this type of personal information. Additionally, you may receive items in the mail that you did not order."
In big bold italicized letters, the release points out that The call is a scam.
For those receiving these calls, the OIG recommends four different options:
- protect your Medicare and other personal information, and be suspicious of anyone who offers you "free" items or services and asks for this type of information;
- report the call to the OIG hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or online at www.OIG.HHS.gov/fraud/hotline, providing the name of the company that called you, the telephone number and address, and a summary of your conversation with the caller;
- check your Medicare summary notice and bills for suspicious charges; and
- don't accept items that you did not order, keeping a record of the information to help the government catch any future illegal billing.
While this fraud alert specifically mentions Medicare, this is a concern across the board for everyone with diabetes. I'm sure it goes beyond PWDs, too, and hits at patients with any number of other medical conditions.
This brings to mind some recent news stories about the growing amount of medical identify theft in the U.S. A report last fall described it as the fast-growing trend in ID thievery, impacting 1.42 million Americans in 2010 and costing an aggregate of more than $28 billion. The survey of 600 executives in U.S. hospitals, physician groups, health insurers, Pharma and life sciences companies found that 54 percent have dealt with at least one issue related to information privacy and security in the last two years. Even scarier given the rate of scams and medical ID thefts is that 55 percent of these entities haven't taken the steps necessary to address privacy and security concerns relating to mobile devices, the report said.
My blood sugar rises from just thinking about this. (Seriously, #bgnow 253)
The thing is, people are lying and scheming and trying to convince us these offers are legit by dangling metaphoric carrots in front of our faces — carrots flavored like our favorite OMG-I-need-that treats. They're claiming to "help us" with free diabetes medications and supplies that are so important to us, and in many cases are difficult to afford. These scammers are trying to steal our money and IDs to get supplies for themselves, or to flip them for a profit.
We shouldn't have to fight these types of battles, but apparently that's the world we live in these days when so much information is out there on the web (ahem). Just imagine what this problem will look like down the road, as more medical information goes online and is floating around in cyberspace. Yikes!
I have a paper shredder in my home office and I'm going to start using it even more liberally. When I get an offer about something "free," my next move will be either a quick click of my phone or a push of the email delete button.
I'm guessing that adopting the age-old adage of "nothing in life is free" wouldn't hurt either. At least it'll cut down my chances of being scammed... until I upload my pump and glucose meter and send the data to my endo via email.