The Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services posted a "Fraud Alert for People with Diabetes" on March 13.
They point out that "criminals who plot to defraud the Government and steal money from the American people have a new target: people with diabetes." They indicate that someone may call you, and indicate they are from the government or a diabetes association, and offer you free diabetes supplies such as BG meters or strips (or non-diabetes supplies like heating pads or joint braces). Or you may receive unsolicited merchandise by mail.
There's an eye-opening report at the AARP website of one such phone scam: Dialing for Diabetics. It starts "The phone at my home rang one recent Wednesday evening, and on the other end was a woman with exciting news for me: "You qualify to receive free diabetes supplies." Records identified me as having the condition, she said... Her offer, of course, seemed less than authentic... First, I don't have diabetes..."
What to do? The OIG suggests:
1) Do not provide your Medicare number [or other insurance info] or other personal information if called by someone offering "free" supplies.
2) Report the Call to the OIG Hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or online at www.OIG.HHS.gov/fraud/hotline.
3) Check Your Medicare Summary Notices and Medicare bills for items you might not have ordered, or for multiple billing for the same item.
4) Do Not Accept Items That You Did Not Order. The OIG suggests that you should refuse the delivery and/or return to the sender. Keep a record of the sender's name and the date you returned the item(s) to help OIG catch any future illegal billing.
[I'm a bit surprised at this fourth suggestion. Returning the item before getting the OIG involved sounds like it would make it more difficult to respond to any questions that the OIG might have about the package; it seems easier to me to simply keep the package or items, and be prepared to follow the advice of the OIG staff when they touch base with you.
I also had a vague memory that unsolicited merchandise is yours to keep, and the United States Postal Inspection Service agrees with me: They have a discussion at Receipt of Unsolicited Merchandise -- "If you do not wish to pay for unsolicited merchandise or make a donation to a charity sending such an item, you may do one of three things (in each case, by law, you have no obligation to the sender):
- If you have not opened the package, you may mark it "Return to Sender," and the Postal Service will return it with no additional postage charged to you.
- If you open the package and don't like what you find, you may throw it away.
- If you open the package and like what you find, you may keep it for free. In this instance, "finders-keepers" applies unconditionally.
Furthermore, it is illegal for a company that sends you unordered merchandise to follow the mailing with a bill or dunning communication."]
Oh, and don't trust the Caller ID that pops up when you receive one of these scam phone calls: it's probably a "spoofed" Caller ID: see Wikipedia for a discussion of Caller ID spoofing. Despite attempts to outlaw the practice, even Google accepts ads from companies providing Caller ID spoofing; when you enter "spoof caller id" you get Google ads that suggest "Spoof Caller ID Now - Totally Private. Totally Fun." and "Make Spoof Calls Today -Caller ID Spoof for Professionals."
Back to the main point: Don't be surprised if scammers call you about "free" diabetes supplies.