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Need to report a scam? U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri says use her website to do so. During a stop in Springfield Wednesday, she announced the launch of the fraud reporting tool, which comes after her recent appointment as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports.
Last week, the Senator held a hearing on financial and contracting oversight related to aggressive medical equipment sales calls.
“It exposed billions of dollars being wasted when companies try to take advantage of seniors and pressure doctors to have the federal government pay for equipment that’s not needed,” McCaskill says.
The investigation was spurred when McCaskill was contacted by a Missouri doctor, which is why she’s asking other citizens to bring these types of issues to her attention.
McCaskill has no illusions that the new option on her website will likely generate thousands of fraud complaints, which she says her team will review thoroughly and then take the proper action to try and protect people from scammers.
“My staff will go through all the submissions, see if we can find common threads. Particularly, if we see there are 20 or 30 people are saying ‘I was victimized by the same thing,’ then we’ll investigated it. See what it is, see if in fact it is fraudulent, and then we’ll have a hearing about it and expose the fact that the federal agency that should have gotten to the bottom of this was asleep at the wheel.”
She adds that the biggest part of the nation’s debt comes from health care, and cleaning up the fraud within the Medicare program alone will “allow our country to be in good fiscal shape for our kids and our grandkids.”
Gary Maddox is the CEO of Southwest Center for Independent Living in Springfield. He claims durable medical equipment is generally three times the cost of what it should be valued, and that the Medicare and Medicaid systems are the ones footing the bill.
“I think in the spirit of competitive bidding that Senator McCaskill mentioned, that if we can actually bring these costs down, it’s gonna to be a huge savings overall for everybody,” Maddox said.
In southwest Missouri, some of the more popular scams seem to deal with credit repair and debt settlement. According to Joe Allen Stokes, president and CEO of Consumer Credit Counseling of Springfield, you can’t repair your credit; you can only improve it over a period of time.
“There’s no magic pill on improving your credit score. It takes paying off debts over a period of time, avoiding the high interest loans, getting those balances paid off. It can be done. It’s not a quick fix; it’ll take awhile to get that done,” Stokes said.
McCaskill also weighed in on payday lending, noting that regulations, or the lack thereof, are enacted on the state level, and that lending laws in Missouri rank somewhere in the middle. She did say that there is an attempt by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau through the Dodd-Frank legislation to explore disclosure laws with payday lending. But the Senator cautioned that not all problems are best fixed in Washington.
“Most problems are best fixed at the state and local level. So I’m not gonna jump on a bandwagon to have all these rules come out of Washington. On the other hand, I do wanna help put pressure on Jefferson City to do the right think so these people aren’t being preyed upon by these payday lenders.”
Click here to access Senator McCaskill's scam reporting link.
For KSMU news, I’m Scott Harvey.