People warned of elder theft and Medicare fraud in area


September 24, 2019

Hill County officials say elderly theft is not only a national problem, not just a state problem, but a county problem with 14 active cases in Hill County dealing with elderly theft and Medicare fraud.

“What we are running into is some seniors that are at home alone, very lonely, and these con-artists — to say the least, call them up and act as their friend — They’ll call them back two or three times and then they will start to get information from them,” Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program Information Specialist Marci Bergren said. “They will ask for their Social Security number, their Medicare number, their addresses, their birthdate, everything they need, and they use that information.”

“$60,000 is the amount we lose to Medicare fraud in Montana annually and $60,000 billion is what we lose nationally every year,” Montana Senior Medicare Patrol Manager Renee Labrie-Shanks said in an email to Bergren.

Bergren said she is trying to make everybody aware of is that if people have given out this information to come to the North Central Senior Citizens Center and she will help with going to the police and getting it reported.

She added that she has been working with Labrie-Shanks on a lot of fraud cases in Hill County, currently 14 cases throughout the past eight months. She said that a lot of is durable equipment, some of it is identity theft, some of it is with people who are cognitively not totally there and being tricked into giving numbers out.

With Havre being in a remote area, Bergren said, it is an easy target.

She added that she has two cases in Hill County with people who are close to losing absolutely everything. 

The Senior Medicare Patrol September newsletter stated some common examples of suspected Medicare fraud or abuse:

• Billing for services or supplies that were not provided

• Providing unsolicited supplies to beneficiaries

  •Prescribing or providing excessive or unnecessary tests and services

• Violating the participating provider agreement with Medicare by refusing to bill Medicare for covered services or items and billing  the beneficiary instead.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services define fraud “as the intentional deception or misrepresentation that the individual knows to be false or does not believe to be true.”

“The big thing is putting a freeze on all your accounts … and you want to make sure you have some way of tracking everything and those freezes, you can’t lose the number, if you lose the code number for accessing it you will never be able to access it or open it again,” Bergren said.

She added that if this activity happens a lot to a person they will no longer be able to have a bank account because it is too high of a risk for a bank.

Senior Medicare Patrol also stated three steps to help stop Medicare fraud:

1. Protect. People should protect their new Medicare number and call Medicare right away if it does become compromised

2. Detect. People should always review their Medicare Summary Notice or Medicare Advantage Explanation of Benefits for mistakes and look for things such as charges for something they didn’t get, billing for the same thing twice, or services that weren’t ordered by the person’s doctor.

3. Report. Report or question anything doesn’t look right to you. Each county office on aging has a connection with Senior Medicare Patrol and the patrol can reached by calling 1-800-551-3192.

Senior Medicare Patrol is there to help educate Medicare beneficiaries about ways to prevent, detect and combat Medicare fraud, the newsletter said. For more information, visit the Stop Medicare Fraud website at or stop by North Central Senior Center at 2 Second Street West and talk with Bergren.

“The biggest thing I am really concerned about right now is people being contacted and giving out their information because they think the person is going to be a friend and then they are losing almost everything because of it,” Bergren said. “Do not give out any information. Do not say yes on anyone phone conversations, especially to someone you do not know, but if you say yes on a phone conversation to someone you do not know, that yes will be used to say that you authorize them to using your credit card.”

She said that she found on the phone calls that if people wait till the third ring and don’t speak when they answer and listen for a while, nine times out of ten the caller will hang up because they’ll go for the first one who answers.

She added that Medicare and Social Security will not call and that the way they contact everyone is by mailing a letter.


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