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Wisconsin

Fraud Fighters Focusing on Medicare

Volunteers educate communities on financial scams, fraud prevention

Cheryl Kelly, of Schofield, an AARP Wisconsin Fraud Fighter, gives Medicare beneficiaries tips on how to spot fraud, one of which is to carefully review all their statements.

Cheryl Kelly, of Schofield, an AARP Wisconsin Fraud Fighter, gives Medicare beneficiaries tips on how to spot fraud, one of which is to carefully review all their statements. — Photo by Narayan Mahon/ Wonderful Machine

Some people may feel immune to high-profile fraud cases like those in states like Florida or California, but that's not the case, said Sam Wilson, AARP Wisconsin state director.

Two years ago, the Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection warned that Medicare beneficiaries across the state were getting calls from people impersonating Social Security Administration employees. The callers said they needed confidential information in order to reissue a Medicare card. Then, last November, people in northwest Wisconsin reported getting calls from someone claiming to be a Medicare or insurance company representative who asked for Social Security or bank account numbers.

The best way to avoid these types of scams is to refuse to provide or confirm any personal information to anyone over the phone. Instead, call the Medicare number on the back of your card to verify that the representative is legitimate.

The work of groups like the Fraud Fighters is invaluable because educating people about fraud aids in prevention, Chalmers said. "Informed consumers are better equipped to identify fraud. Once you've become a victim, it's too late."

If someone falls victim to a scam, Fraud Fighter Marsha Konz, 67, of Mequon, encourages the person to report it. Often, victims feel embarrassed or think reporting is futile, but it does make a difference, she said.

"They might not identify the person who scammed you," Konz said, "but they can find trends. And then they can stop it from happening."

Each individual can make a small difference toward reducing Medicare fraud, Wilson said. Simple steps such as carefully reviewing health care bills or Medicare statements and reporting errors can add up.

"People can take positive steps. They can say, 'I'm doing my part to identify and curtail unnecessary spending, both in my pocketbook and in the nation's spending.' They can be part of a solution."

To request a presentation by an AARP Wisconsin Fraud Fighter for your organization, call or email Mariann Muzzi, director of the program, at 608-286-6303 or mmuzzi@aarp.org.

For more information or to report a scam, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection online or call 1-800-422-7128 or email datcphotline@wisconsin.gov.

To report a fraud or check out the validity of a business or individual, visit the Division of Financial Institutions online or call 1-800-472-4325.

Amy Geier Edgar is a freelance writer living in Racine, Wisc.

Also of interest: AARP ramps up fight against Medicare fraud.

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