OKLAHOMA CITY - Jerry Kueck's mother-in-law, Berthalene, is 81 years-old and has early signs of Dementia.
She thought she was being offered free medical equipment from Medicare.
“Basically I'm a doctor with Medicare and I want to help you with your pain.
The mystery caller was able to get the 81-year-old to cough up her Medicare number, because she thought he was a real doctor.
Jerry adds, “She forgot the fact her doctor had already got her braces, back brace and knee brace.”
Once they get their hands on your Medicare number they can bill the government for unnecessary medical equipment.
Shipments of braces keep showing up on Jerry's mother-in-law's doorstep.
Not only does she not need them.
They're not even properly fitted to help her with her pain.
Social Security's Jose Olivero says the medical equipment might be free for the patient, but taxpayers are picking up the tab to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year.
“The government has to pay,” he said. “It's coming out of your tax money and [the] insurance you carry.”
We wanted to know who's sneaking around billing Medicare and shipping unnecessary equipment to Berthalene.
When we tried calling Banner Healthcare Services, a woman in Jamaica answered and told us that they received a prescription for Berthalene's back brace from a doctor.
She said, “It's like a call-in doctor.”
We asked her to clarify “call-in doctor.”
“So [Berthalene] saw an ad on the television, called the number, spoke to a doctor about the pain she was feeling [and] the prescription was written and sent to our facility.”
She refused to tell us the name of the doctor who supposedly filled Berthalene’s prescription.
She said Medicare would be reimbursed once the back brace was returned, but what about those other shipments.
We tried returning braces to a second company out of North Hollywood, California.
The lady who took our call wouldn't tell us how they ended up with Berthalene's information, but promised to have her supervisor call Jerry.
No one ever called.
Finally, a third company based in New Jersey, demanded we put Berthalene on the phone.
He said, “Sir I cannot give out any information period, unless I have her permission to talk to you.”
Never share your Medicare number with an unsolicited caller, because you're opening yourself up to more harassing phone calls and bogus charges.
“They will try to defraud Medicare, but now your personal information is out there, so they can use that information to get a credit card and loans and all kinds of other things,” Olivero said.
- Medicare is not going to call you up asking you to verify your Medicare number because they already have it.
- If you suspect you are the victim of Medicare fraud, do what Jerry did and report it to Medicare's fraud hotline.