Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Section 8 scam hitting state, warnings continue on medical equipment scams

 

April 22, 2019



A warning has been issued on a text-messaging scam targeting Section 8 participants and landlords, and warnings continue on a scam offering durable medical equipment to people.

In a release over the weekend, Montana Department of Commerce said that in the smishing — a text message phishing scam — a bogus message is sent to participants and landlords.

The text says, “Section 8 Status Error in Processing for (recipient’s name). Fix immediately for unclaimed funds,” followed by a link the scammers want the recipient to click.

“Don’t be fooled by this scam,” the release said, adding that the text message did not originate with Montana Department of Commerce Section 8 Programs or any of its partner agencies that administer these vouchers in their region. 

“It is most likely a smishing scam,” the release said.

The Montana Department of Commerce voucher program does not share any information about participants with unrelated third-parties, nor did it share any participant data with this group, the release said. The company or person sending the text messages does not have legitimate information.

“While we haven’t heard that there is a danger in opening the text message, we suggest deleting it as soon as you see what it is, or if already opened, do not reply or click on any internal links,” the release said.

For more information about online safety, people can go online to

 https://www.usa.gov/ONLINE-SAFETY/.

Meanwhile, warnings continue to come out about people contacting Medicare recipients to offer durable medical equipment.

That comes after the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General announced, along with its law enforcement partners, success in dismantling one of the largest fraud schemes in terms of amount billed to Medicare.

The announcement this month said 24 defendants in 17 Federal districts were charged for allegedly participating in the scheme, in which fraudsters submitted more than $1.7 billion in Medicare claims and were paid over $900 million.

In the alleged scheme, medical professionals working with fraudulent telemedicine companies received illegal kickbacks and bribes from medical equipment companies in exchange for prescriptions for medically unnecessary orthotic braces. The medical equipment companies then used the prescriptions to fraudulently bill Medicare.

Similar frauds have been hitting Montana, including in the Havre area.

“The Social Security Act prohibits suppliers of durable medical equipment from making unsolicited telephone calls to people on Medicare, yet Montana’s Senior Medicare Patrol has received multiple reports across the state of scam calls,” a release from the patrol said. “Not only have folks been receiving calls selling durable medical equipment, or DME, but several people have received unordered supplies including back braces. One case alone involves receiving twenty different items from five different companies.”

Under law, durable medical equipment is only covered by Medicare if it is prescribed by a doctor.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that fraudulent telemarketing and DME supplies contribute to the estimated $60 billion in fraudulent Medicare payments each year.

“Though it may end up being no cost to the person, it is costing Medicare, and until you report it, they will get away with it,” the release said.

People are told that if they receive a call pressuring them to buy medical equipment they don’t need or don’t want, they should hang up.

People who receive medical items in the mail they didn’t order should refuse delivery or send them back and report the incident to their Senior Medicare Patrol office by calling 1-800-551-3191.

 

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