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Medicare Fraud Most Common Senior Scam

Geri Barlow has been the accountant at the Greater Pocatello Senior Center for 12 years. She has her own show on public access television, she is 80 years old and knows her way around a bill.

“I do know there is a chance for fraud, so I watch my bills very carefully,” Barlow said.

Even though the seniors at the center said they’re the best pool players in town, there are plenty of people out there trying to steal from their pockets. The National Council on Aging reported Medicare fraud is one of the most common scams targeting seniors.

“If somebody contacts a senior — or anybody — and it’s an unsolicited contact, that should send up a red flag,” said Idaho Department of Insurance public information specialist Tricia Carney.

Medicare fraud can take several forms. Most commonly, scammers are trying to sell products, services and equipment over the phone. Be especially suspicious of anyone on the phone saying something will be paid for by Medicare, Carney said.

“When somebody calls you, you always have the right to hang up. You don’t owe them anything,” she said.

Barlow said she has been called by a scammer before. It was a man trying to get her to send him a Walmart gift card in order to redeem a cash prize, she said.

“And I said, ‘You said it wouldn’t cost me any money.’ And I didn’t go, of course. But a lot of people would. And I think we need to educate our seniors,” said Barlow.

To stay safe, Barlow said she marks her doctor appointments and procedures on her calender and then matches them up with her bills.

“And then when I get my bill, I go over the bill thoroughly to see if — because sometimes they’re really hard to understand — but if I don’t understand it, I call them and ask them. But I go over my bill thoroughly to make sure they haven’t overcharged me — or overcharged Medicare,” she said.

Barlow recently opened the most confusing bill she’s ever seen.

“And then I realized it was all written in Spanish and I couldn’t understand anything,” Barlow said with a laugh. She said she’ll be calling on that bill right away.

The senior center is a great place for older people to find community support and help for these kinds of issues, Barlow said.

For questions about a bill, visit a local Medicare office, or call the state’s Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors office at 800-247-4422.

Medicare loses an estimated $50 billion a year to health care swindlers, according to the National Council on Aging.

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