SAN ANTONIO – The bad guys are dialing for diabetics.
The federal government is warning diabetic consumers to beware of phone callers offering free medical supplies because scammers are using the promise of freebies to get personal information and defraud the government.
The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General issued a fraud alert for people with diabetes.
The warning says the scheme typically involves a caller pretending to be from the government, Medicare or various diabetes associations.
The caller then offers "free" diabetic supplies such as glucose meters, test strips, lancets, heating pads, foot orthotics or joint braces in exchange for the consumer's Medicare number or other financial information.
While the caller claims the items are "free," they are billed to Medicare.
Al Cantu, with the local AARP, is diabetic and has received plenty of phone calls offering free supplies. While some may only want his business, others appear to want much more, he said.
"They're forceful, continuously calling you," he said. "The questions they ask you are not real nice, like 'What's your number?' It's 'We're going to need this information.'"
Cantu wants others to suspicious of such calls.
For consumers who receive such calls, the government advises never giving out Medicare or other personal financial information to callers and to check Medicare notices and bills to see if there are items charged but never received.
Calls can be reported to the Office of Inspector General hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or online at www.OIG.HHS.gov/fraud/hotline.