Have you been offered a free knee brace from Medicare? Beware of this rampant scam that’s been going on. The scammers claim to be from Medicare or a medical warehouse, and some even say they were referred by your doctor or a caregiver. They ask for your Medicare number, and callers are pushy in trying to get your personal information. Some telemarketers will keep calling until they wear you down and you give in to whatever is being offered.
Free back or knee brace? It’s a scam
Whether it’s an “as seen on TV” ad or someone calling you claiming to be from Medicare, these are scams. The best way to get a new knee brace is to meet with a doctor face to face who can get you a properly fitting brace that will help relieve your pain.
It’s understandable to want a quick fix if you or a loved one is in pain, but understand that as soon as you call the number on your TV or tell a caller on the phone that you are in need of a knee brace or back brace, you are opening yourself up to more phone calls and attempts to get your information. Scammers call offering braces as well as other durable medical equipment (DME).
Why back and knee braces?
The reason these fraudsters are hawking back and knee braces is that Medicare will pay for them, as Medicare has not reduced its reimbursement amounts for these durable medical equipment items.
Here’s what happens
The back brace or knee brace that was billed as “free” is not free at all. Later, Medicare will be billed. Medicare gets a bill for the knee, back, or arm braces for thousands of dollars (each brace costs from $1,000 to $2,000), when in reality a back or knee brace costs far less than that.
Since Medicare receives over one billion claims per year, a live person only reviews about three percent of these claims. Medicare signs off on the claims and pays them.
Ads on TV
Abe Wischnia of Elliott.org paused the TV on a recording of an ad offering free back braces from Medicare, and he found a disclaimer in fine print that appeared for just a few seconds. It read as follows:
“By calling in, I confirm that this will serve as my signature authority for COMPANY and their customers to call me on my telephone at the number provided. I am aware of my rights to protect my privacy and these rights are waived for the purpose of COMPANY and their customers to call me. I consent to receive information on products not limited to spinal support braces and/or knee braces on this phone call or subsequent phone calls … I am permitting calls to be automatically dialed. … If I am on a do not call list, by opting in, I am waiving this right.”
You don’t know what you might get
Some callers asked for a back brace and received more than one, or received a back brace and two knee braces, or even more. To make matters worse, these braces are often low-quality and won’t last the 5 years it will take for Medicare to pay for a new one.
In the end, Medicare ends up getting charged for every item the person received. Overall, Medicare fraud costs American taxpayers $60 billion every year. Just on back braces, taxpayers spent nearly $108 million between 2010 and 2016.
How to mitigate Medicare fraud
Only answer the phone if it’s a caller that you know.
If you do answer the phone and it’s a solicitor, hang up. If it’s a postcard or email, discard it.
Turn off or disregard TV ads offering free back or knee braces.
If you do talk to the solicitor, tell them you’re going to report them for Medicare fraud and you’d like to be removed from their list.
Never give out your Medicare card number, Social Security number, birth date, bank account info, or credit card number to an unknown party. This goes for over the phone, on email, or on social media.
Always double check your Medicare statement for errors.
Report instances of fraud to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.
If you are in need of a back or knee brace, or any medical device, see your doctor to get one prescribed to you. That way, it can be processed correctly through your Medicare or other insurance plan.
February 23, 2018
by Ari Lazarus
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
We’ve recently heard that scammers are recycling an old phishing attempt. In this version, scammers, posing as a well-known tech company, email a phony invoice showing that you’ve recently bought music or apps from them. The email tells you to click on a link if you did not authorize the purchase. Stop – do not click on the link. That’s the new twist on an old scam.
More precisely, you just experienced a phishing attempt – that is, when a scammer uses fraudulent emails or texts, or copycat websites to get you to share valuable personal information. The scammers then use that information to commit fraud or identity theft.
Scammers also use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network – then they install programs like ransomware that can lock you out of important files on your computer.
Here are some tips to help keep your information secure:
•Be suspicious if a business, government agency, or organization asks you to click on a link that then asks for your username or password or other personal data. Instead, type in the web address for the organization or call them. The link in the email may look right, but if you click it you may go to a copycat website run by a scammer.
•Be cautious about opening attachments. A scammer could even pretend to be a friend or family member, sending messages with malware from a spoofed account.
•Set your security software to update automatically, and back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up your files regularly and use security software you trust to protect your data.
Lastly, report phishing emails and texts by forwarding them to email@example.com and filing a report with the FTC.