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Frank Gray

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Be wary of callers asking for your info

For days, Brenda Jackson had been getting calls from someone with a toll-free number looking for her husband, but he was never home.

The persistent caller eventually got in touch with Jackson’s husband and tried to sell him diabetic supplies.

It was Jackson, though, not her husband, who has diabetes, so she took the phone and eventually told the caller her birth date and insurance policy number.

It wasn’t until the next day that Jackson began to ponder what she had done. Her insurance policy number included a good part of her Social Security number. She had given up her birth date. How did the caller even know that she had diabetes? Was he really with the company that he claimed, or was he a con man masquerading as a representative of a medical supply company?

Jackson did an Internet search on the phone number and found a site where people were complaining that they were getting three to four calls a day from that number.

Whether Jackson will get her diabetic supplies remains to be seen. But the fact that she is on the state’s no-call list suggests that even if the company calling her is legitimate, it was violating the law.

I talked to an organization called Senior Medicare Patrol, which serves as a watchdog for people on Medicare. The group tries to teach people how to avoid having their identity stolen or letting con artists get their personal information.

Jackson isn’t on Medicare, but the advice the group offers is good for anyone.

It’s simple: Don’t give out personal information to anyone you don’t know.

Tamra Simpson, a spokeswoman for the Senior Medicare Patrol, said Jackson’s case was unusual. The diabetes scam was big business about three years ago, but it has always targeted people on Medicare.

“I’ve never heard of anyone being called who wasn’t on Medicare,” Simpson said.

Simpson also questioned how the caller obtained Jackson’s name and phone number and the information that she had diabetes.

The answer is that people do get their hands on lists of personal information on people and sell it all the time, Simpson said.

The so-called diabetes scam resulted in huge amounts of fraud, but Simpson said in the past year the federal government has implemented technology that allows it to monitor health care claims of people on Medicare, flagging fraudulent claims before they are paid.

Senior Medicare Patrol is offering people what are called personal health care journals, in which they can record all appointments, medications prescribed, tests and procedures performed and medical equipment used. People can then compare their journals to Medicare statements. That will let people find errors and possible fraud on their accounts.

People can request a journal by calling the Council on Aging at 1-800-986-3505.

But once again, Jackson isn’t on Medicare.

Jackson realizes the mistake she made, and a precautionary measure she can take would be putting a freeze on her credit. But when she called me, it wasn’t because she was seeking help. She just wanted to remind people to not do what she did.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter (@FrankGrayJG).

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