In recent weeks we have been exploring many different types of medical scams. From miracle cures and promises to melt the pounds away to bogus online prescription mills and the theft of patients’ medical records, these frauds have taken root in just about every facet of the wellness industry. Particularly popular these days are those scams seeking to take advantage of the portion of our society moving into the twilight years.

As the years pass and the body weakens, many folks find independent living increasingly difficult. Unless they have someone willing to sacrifice their days and nights and provide the commitment of full-time care, permanent assisted living is needed. Even if one can manage the self-care, the chances of heightened medical costs as we advance in age is sky high. This creates an ideal situation for the scammers to clean up.

With the baby boom generation growing older and the threat fear that Medicaid might collapse under the weight, many of the 78 million boomers in their 40s, 50s and 60s are seeking out long term insurance policies that will keep them covered into their golden years. And while the majority of the companies selling are quite reputable, there are plenty of shady organizations that are mixed among them. Here are some known scams:

– Bad Policies: Some scammers will knowingly sell incredibly expensive policies to those who will not be able to keep up with the high premiums. Preying on low and fixed income seniors, these scumbags use high-pressure sales tactics and drive home the fear of escalating medical costs leaving them broke or a burden on family members. They know the insurance will eventually be forfeit, but are looking for their cut of that first payment.

– Two Policies: Don’t be sold two overlapping policies when one will suffice. This is another scam that comes with high-pressure selling and fear tactics.

– Trading Up: Don’t be pressured into trading up or switching policies by a pushy salesperson. Some will try to scam you into buying a “stronger” policy from a different company or changing to a new policy with your old company. Often times, the policy is identical only more expensive and you’ve also forfeited years of paid premiums and if your medical condition has changed might be denied important benefits due to what are now pre-existing conditions.

– Thinned Out Coverage: A crafty salesperson will often start eliminating certain features of the policy in order to drop the cost and close the sale. Often times these provisions cut might have a dire effect later, like built-in protection against inflation or staggeringly high deductibles that you are not informed of at the time. All they care about is the sale, not the quality of your insurance down the road; don’t let yourself be surprised by such changes.

– Phony Coverage: Some even sell fake insurance, with home health care being a popular fake. They steal your premiums and leave you with no coverage. Many times the victim’s don’t even find out they have been had until the point they go to use it, when they need it most.

There are plenty of well-respected and solid care-giving nursing homes and assisted care facilities in the US. Sadly there are just as many shady properties where the elderly are trapped in a nightmare they have no means of escaping.

Be sure to any potential facility is properly vetted, check hiring practices and put in the time to make an actual visit. Any home will be happy to take large amounts of money, whether from the patient, the patient’s family or government benefits. But not every home provides the same level of concern or comfort. Visit in person. A ten minute visit to many of these places will tell you everything you need to know about how patient’s are treated and the general atmosphere of the community.

Once a loved one is placed in a facility, be sure to follow up regularly. Even the better homes find themselves understaffed and can turn to less than solid means in order to fill out their rosters.

Just last year several teens, who were recruited as caregivers at the Good Samaritan Society Nursing Home in Albert Lea, Minnesota, came under fire for the reported abuse of seven different patients in the home. Of the six girls charged, four were minors. They were accused of sexual abusing and tormenting the patients. They were kids being asked to give elderly patients sponge baths and clean bed pans and they not surprisingly acted like children when asked to perform these difficult tasks. Certainly when families place someone in a respected facility, they expect a professional level of care.

If you don’t keep involved, it’s hard to know who is being hired. Recently, the owner of two nursing homes in Long Beach, California was arrested for smuggling six workers into the US from the Philippines and then forcing them to work in her nursing homes.

The six Philippine nationals were recruited with promises of legitimate jobs in the homes. Taught basic taekwondo moves and terminology, the six were brought into the country as “students” claiming to be headed to California for martial arts competitions.

Once in the states, the six recruits were forced to work 24-hour shifts in the homes without ever having formal training. Their passports were held by the owner and they were threatened with deportation and arrest if they tried to run away. They were also instructed not to speak to the patients or their families and to lie about their work hours, experience and working conditions to the local and state inspectors who made periodic visits. Upon the discovery of this crime and the owner’s arrest, both homes were closed by the state.

While there is no way to keep an eye on a facility 24 hours a day, it’s wise to make occasional check ups on a home if you have loved one placed there. If anything seems off, dig a little deeper. Alert authorities if necessary and take your loved one out immediately.

The body eventually begins breaking down for all of us. The medical bills pile up and we might find our daily lives in the hands of others. If we are lucky the wits stay sharp and good thing too. These sharp wits are what will keep us from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous scammers. The medical industry is going to take plenty of our money, no need to share with these scammers.

If you have a loved one who maybe isn’t quite on the ball these days, take these lessons to heart and keep an eye out for them too.

Because if you aren’t looking out, there is always the chance someone else has their eye on them with much less altruistic intentions in mind. In fact, next week we will share the heart wrenching story of a New York City woman who thought her prolonged illness couldn’t get any worse. Then she invited a care-giver into her home. She grew to trust the woman, not realizing she was dealing with a con artist in a nurses uniform.

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