Protecting Your Loved One From Fraud

The ill and the elderly are often the targets of con artists and other charlatans. Here is some basic information you may need to keep your loved one from becoming a victim of fraud.

Exploitation may be defined as the “illegal or improper use of an incapacitated adult or his resources for another’s profit or advantage.”

Financial exploitation can include:

  • Manipulating the care recipient into giving away his or her money or personal property
  • Manipulating the care recipient into signing over his or her home or possessions, especially if the deal includes a promise that the care recipient will never be institutionalized
  • Manipulating the care recipient into signing over legal or financial rights, especially when the care recipient doesn’t understand the document
  • Use of the care recipient’s money to purchase items that aren’t intended for the care recipient

Signs that your loved one has been the victim of fraud or exploitation can include:

  • The disappearance of personal property
  • Transfer of personal property, savings, or insurance
  • A sudden change in his or her will, representative payee, or power of attorney
  • A sudden increase in the use of ATMs, especially if your loved one has no past history of using ATMs or cannot access an ATM because of a disability
  • Unusual bank account activity, such as expenditures that are inconsistent with past financial transactions or sudden large withdrawals

Although there are many types of care recipient exploitation, health-based fraud and telemarketing fraud are the two most common methods that caregivers should be aware of.

Health Fraud

Care recipients are often easy targets for health-based fraud because these individuals are ill and wish to become well. Therefore, they make the perfect targets for companies selling illegitimate “treatments” for various medical conditions. Currently, the most popular illegitimate treatments on the market include anti-aging products, arthritis remedies, and cancer cures. Such treatments typically make large promises without producing any results. In general, you and your loved one should be wary of any product or company that:

  • Claims to cure a disease that is not yet curable
  • Advertises a remedy that helps a variety of ailments
  • Presents testimonials from satisfied customers or “case histories”
  • Makes use of a “secret formula”
  • Sells the product only through the mail
  • Is sponsored by only one company or person
  • Promises a quick and/or painless cure

If any of these are the case, or if you have any doubts about a product, contact the Better Business Bureau to check on the product’s authenticity.

Medicare/Medicaid Fraud

Another type of health fraud involves misuse of Medicare and Medicaid funds. Statistically, about one in every 10 Medicare or Medicaid dollars is lost to fraud. Sometimes these losses are in the form of billing for:

  • Services for an unknown patient
  • A stolen Medicare card being used by another person
  • Claims that request more money than necessary
  • Claims for services that are not medically necessary
  • Excessive charges for services or supplies
  • Housekeeping services billed as “skilled nursing”
  • Services not provided

To protect your loved one from Medicare or Medicaid fraud, make sure he or she

  • Calls the local, state, or national Medicare or Medicaid offices with any questions about services, service providers, billing, etc.
  • Double-checks Medicare regulations for special services before obtaining them
  • Obtains a receipt when he or she returns any rented medical equipment to the dealer
  • Never loans or gives his or her Medicare card to anyone other than a professional providing services
  • Never signs a blank form and keeps a copy of all signed documents
  • Reads the Medicare Summary Notice and all bills, and asks questions if there is anything that he or she doesn’t understand
  • Questions any service that he or she hasn’t received
  • Questions the necessity of all services provided

Telemarketing And Mail Fraud

We all receive “junk mail” or phone calls from telemarketers, but because the ill and elderly are often isolated or lonely, they are more likely to respond to phony offers and become the victims of fraud. It’s likely that your loved one is the target of fraud if he or she:

  • Is offered an opportunity that is immediate, so that there’s no time to think about it
  • Is told that no paper information will be sent until the “deal” is agreed to
  • Is told that large profits can be made at no risk
  • Is asked for charitable donations for an unknown cause or by someone who will not explain how the money will be used
  • Is asked for cash
  • Is asked for a social security number, credit card number, bank account number, or other financial information
  • Receives calls from organizations that charge a fee to recover money lost to telemarketers
  • Receives frequent calls from strangers that offer valuable awards or great money-making opportunities
  • Has payments picked up by a private courier service
  • Makes repeated or large payments to out-of-state companies
  • Receives lots of cheap items such as costume jewelry, small appliances, pens and pencils, and beauty products
  • Is relentlessly being contacted by the same company or individual

To help your loved one protect him or herself from fraud, try as many of these preventative steps as possible:

  • Be familiar with your loved one’s finances
  • Make sure he or she carefully reads anything requiring a signature
  • Make sure he or she consults a lawyer before deeding or willing a house or assets, especially if someone is promising to keep your loved one out of a care facility
  • Directly deposit your loved one’s monthly income
  • Make sure your loved one has a will
  • Make sure your loved one maintains social contacts
  • Put your loved one’s valuables in a safety deposit box or safe
  • Make sure your loved one sends and opens his or her own mail

To receive more information about fraud, contact the National Consumer League’s Fraud Information Center.

National Consumers League
1701 K St., N. W.,
Suite 1200
Washington, D.C. 20006
(202) 835-3323
(800) 876 7060

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