NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Point of View: Fighting fraud, fighting for Oklahoma seniors

Advertisement
Glen Mulready
Glen Mulready

When my wife and I moved from Massachusetts to Oklahoma more than 20 years ago, we did it to be closer to my wife’s aging parents. When I look back, I realize how important it was that we were close by.

There are more than 272,000 Oklahomans older than 65. Unfortunately, they don’t all have family nearby, and recent numbers have revealed that millions of older adults are exploited each year.

Scammers prey on seniors for a variety of reasons. Older adults can be lonely, more trusting and always willing to help. Many schemes against seniors are over the phone, via email or even through door-to-door advertising. For the millions of older adults who fall victim to fraud, the effects are devastating, costing approximately $2.9 billion each year.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Medicare Assistance Program (MAP) works with the state’s maturing population. MAP provides objective counseling, assistance and advocacy related to Medicare. It also helps seniors learn how to protect themselves from fraud.

The MAP division, along with our partner agencies around the state, received 670 fraud-related questions or concerns last year. One scam they’re hearing about a lot is the “Free Brace” phone call. In this one, the caller claims to represent Medicare. The scammer offers back, knee or leg braces, and the cost will be covered by Medicare. Many times, the senior doesn’t even need the braces. Seniors should be aware of promises of 100 percent coverage of medical equipment by Medicare. Medicare only covers durable medical equipment that is medically necessary and ordered by a doctor.

It’s scams like these that have the Oklahoma Insurance Department focusing on our state’s seniors. Every year, we provide a half-day conference at no cost to seniors to help them learn how to protect themselves. Last year, we reached more than 32,000 individuals through group outreach events.

This spring we kicked off the Oklahoma Senior Protection Summits. Experts from the MAP division, our Anti-Fraud division, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, Oklahoma Bankers Association and Oklahoma Department of Securities share their best tips on preventing and recognizing fraud. The summits will be in Duncan on Thursday, Tulsa on April 23, Mustang on May 2 and Owasso on May 7.

Taking care of Oklahoma’s seniors is important. We hope these events will empower our seniors by providing them with the tools they need to protect themselves and a place to go if they ever need help.

To learn more about the Oklahoma Senior Protection Summits or to register, go to oid.ok.gov or call (800) 763-2828.

Mulready is Oklahoma's insurance commissioner.

Comments