Avoiding Diabetes-Related Product and Insurance Scams

The best way to avoid being the victim of a diabetes insurance or product scam is to know what to watch out for.

The incidence of diabetes is high, and many diabetics and their family members are anxious for symptom relief or a cure. This makes people with diabetes, especially those 65 or older, prime targets for con artists or scammers.

Typical Types of Scams

Diabetes scams usually involve natural cures, acquiring personal information, or "selling" something for nearly nothing.

Natural Cures

One type of fraud is the marketing of bogus products that claim to treat or cure diabetes. They are most often advertised as correcting blood sugar naturally or as miracle cures. Although the FDA watchdogs these scamming companies, new ones tend to crop up faster than existing ones can be curtailed.

Acquiring Personal Info

Another scam involves con artists getting your financial information by offering free supplies. Callers typically say they work for Medicare and that, in exchange for your personal information, a diabetes association or the government will send you a free glucose meter or foot care products. In a variation of this scheme, you might receive diabetes products in the mail that were never ordered. Scammers will subsequently phone for your financial information.

It is common for callers to insist your Medicare number is required to validate your eligibility for the free offer or unordered product. Their real intention is to use your number to bill and bilk Medicare.

Something for Nearly Nothing

A third scheme to watch out for is being asked to make a small initial payment for an expensive, discounted item such as a motorized wheelchair. However, the upfront payment will not get you the product – only requests for more money. Even if the additional fees are paid, the promised item never arrives.

Seven Tips for Staying Scam-Free

What these tips boil down to is that nothing a caller offers is ever free, and things that sound too good to be true usually are.

  1. Report any suspicious calls to the Office of Inspector General OIG Hotline (1-800-HHS-TIPS) or on the oig.hhs.gov website. In your report, include the company’s name, phone number and address (if you have it) as well as a brief summary of your phone conversation.
  2. Never give financial information to someone who calls you. Medicare, government agencies and reputable organizations do not request financial information over the phone – unless you initiate the call.
  3. Never give your personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited email or its linked website. You are better off staying away from sites offering free information about a secret diabetes treatment and those selling natural, miracle cures or discounted products. Be particularly wary of special offers that end in the next hour or 10 minutes.
  4. If something you did not order arrives, do not accept it. You can return packages to a sender without incurring a delivery or postage fee as long as the item is not opened.
  5. Look over your medical bills and Medicare Summary Notices, making sure there are no charges for unordered items and that you are not billed multiple times for one item.
  6. Before taking any new supplements, talk to your doctor. Just because a product is natural does not mean it is safe or effective. You can also check out the product at the Office of Dietary Supplements.
  7. Testimonials or personal success stories about a product may or may not be true and should never replace scientifically acquired data.

Once someone gives away their Medicare information to a scammer, he or she is at increased risk for being the target of future cons. It is better to be rude and hang up on an insistent caller than to get reeled into a costly scheme.

Source: Joslin Center; fda.gov
Photo credit: Kelvin_Kevin Gan / flickr

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