Consumer advice: Don’t get caught in genetic testing web

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Our friends at Senior Medicare Patrol are warning seniors that various companies are showing up at senior centers and health fairs offering genetic testing or cancer screenings and falsely claiming that Medicare will pay for it.

Here’s the real scoop:

Genetic tests and cancer screenings MUST be ordered by your doctor. As more of these scams are cropping up, it’s wise to vigilantly monitor your Medicare summary notices for any service that you did not agree to. If you see something that doesn’t belong on your report, immediately report it to Medicare.

As a reminder, don’t give your Medicare number or Social Security number out at these kinds of events and do not consent to any lab tests at senior centers, health fairs or in your home. If you think you have been a victim of Medicare fraud, call the Senior Medicare Patrol at 800-786-5536, ext. 232. Finally, spread the word on this latest scam to keep other seniors from falling victim.

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JUST A SURVEY? AH, NO: A Coeur d’Alene reader tells of a call she said she received from Valley Health Systems, Inc., an air purification system company in Spokane Valley.

The “nice” woman who called said she was taking a survey on air quality. Our reader answered a few innocuous questions. While she didn’t provide any personal information other than her first name, she felt something was amiss.

Upon checking with the Better Business Bureau, she found out several consumer complaints have been filed about this company. The complaints said the calls started out as surveys but that the company reps’ ulterior motive is to sell you either a vacuum or air purification system.

Either way, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer it. Remember, if you’re on the Do Not Call list, a law-abiding company representative will not call you for any reason.

Interested in what others have to say about this company and its tactics? Check out: https://bit.ly/2VRALF8

Then make your own decision about what to do if this company calls you.

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PAY FOR A REFUND: A Coeur d’Alene reader wanted to warn us about a call she says she received from “Microsoft.” She’s an avid reader of the column, so she was suspicious from the start, because we know Microsoft doesn’t ever call us. The caller told her he had good news: She was entitled to a $200 refund. Didn’t matter that she hadn’t ordered anything.

Because she had answered the phone, she figured she might as well listen to his spiel. He proceeded to tell her that the company doesn’t issue refund checks for less than $1,000. After admonishing him for such a poor way of doing business, she asked what could be done to process the refund.

If it hurts to laugh, you better stop reading now. He told her that she would have to write a check for $800 and send it to him so he could process her $1,000 refund check. Her reply was to hang up on him.

My question was, if you didn’t recognize the number, why did you answer the phone?

•••

SOCIAL SECURITY SCAM … AGAIN: Not surprisingly, there’s a new spin on the Social Security scam. Now crooks are calling victims telling them they are entitled to an additional monthly benefit of $1,000 (or possibly another amount). But the catch is the victim is directed to call a number back to get the details.

The Social Security Administration will not call you to increase your benefits. It’s rare that such an increase in benefits would ever be offered anyway. Remember, benefits are calculated on a careful set of predetermined criteria. If you receive a monthly benefit of $1,000, an incremental $1,000 would fall into the “too good to be true” category. Don’t bother to fall for this one.

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PANHANDLE HEALTH UPDATE: Last fall, some seniors were stuck paying out-of-pocket fees for flu shots because Panhandle Health District (PHD) wasn’t a preferred provider for Pacific Source.

The Health Services Administrator emailed me to say that as of May 1, PHD is now a preferred provider for Pacific Source. This update significantly limits or eliminates out-of-pocket expenses for flu shots for patients with Pacific Source as their Medicare Advantage Plan.

Bottom line: If you usually get your flu shot through PHD and have this insurance, you won’t be subject to the additional costs since they are now an in-network provider.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m a full-time copywriter working with businesses on market messaging, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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