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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

When Cheryl Kelly of Schofield visited clients' homes for her job as a bank trust officer, she cringed when she realized that their financial documents weren't kept in a secure place.

See also: The high cost of Medicare fraud.

"I felt the need to educate people and encourage them to take responsibility for their financial lives," said Kelly, 66, who retired in 2010 after 37 years in banking.

About six years ago, Kelly joined the AARP Wisconsin Fraud Fighters, volunteers who are trained to present information on frauds and scams and how to avoid becoming a victim. Fraud Fighters have given presentations all over the state since 2006 and have spoken to a variety of groups ranging from union members to women's church groups.

Kelly and her 20 fellow volunteers discuss identity theft, medical identity theft and charity fraud. This spring, the Fraud Fighters are adding information about Medicare fraud prevention to their presentations.

Medicare fraud costs the system an estimated $60 billion each year and contributes to higher health care costs. Scams using the names of federal agencies to fool consumers are on the rise and are particularly dangerous to seniors, who tend to be more trusting, said Sandy Chalmers, administrator of the state Division of Trade and Consumer Protection.

Here are a few examples of Medicare fraud and what experts recommend consumers do to prevent it:

A health care provider or supplier billing Medicare for services or equipment never received.

Carefully check your Medicare statements. If you see a questionable charge, notify your provider or call Medicare directly.

Someone stealing a Medicare card to get treatment, supplies or equipment.

Leave your Medicare card at home unless you need it for the doctor or pharmacist, and shred old, unneeded Medicare forms or other health insurance documents.

Companies using false information to persuade someone to join a Medicare Advantage plan.

"Take your time to decide — a high-pressure sales pitch is usually a sure sign of a rip-off," Chalmers said.

Next: Never give out personal information over the telephone. »

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