Eastside Neighborhood

Identifying and avoiding senior fraud focus of seminar on Kalamazoo’s Eastside

Beverly McCall’s elderly father received a phone call from someone claiming to be his grandson saying he was in jail and that he needed money.

Upset, he called his daughter. “He panicked,” says McCall, a Kalamazoo Eastside Neighborhood Association Board Member and member of the Kalamazoo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., that is sponsoring an Eastside seminar on senior fraud. “’This is not real,’ I told him. Here’s this guy claiming he’s my son, saying ‘I’m in trouble. I’m in jail.’ Did he call you Grandpa or did he call you Papa?’ I asked him.” 

As a manager at the Department of Health and Human Services, McCall has seen and heard about many types of senior fraud. “Working where I work, you see stuff like this that happens all the time,” she says. “It’s just important that seniors are aware and they know what to look for so they can protect themselves.”

The seminar, to take place at the Eastside Neighborhood Association, will be led by Lisa Fuller, Regional Coordinator of Medicare and Medicaid with Senior Services of Southwest Michigan, and her husband, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller. 

Sheriff Fuller will discuss current types of senior fraud in the community and how to avoid them, and Lisa Fuller will share information on protecting seniors from common types of Medicare and Medicaid.

“We have teamed up together,” says Lisa Fuller on working with her husband. “Nobody wants to listen to Lisa Fuller, but they will come and listen to Sheriff Fuller. He knows I use him and his name,” she says, laughing.

Fuller, in her work with Senior Ecumenical Services, frequently addresses Medicare and Medicaid fraud with her clients. “I want them to understand that they have worked hard their whole lives to protect their resources whether it's their health and savings or their health benefits I want them to know what to do so no one gets their hands in their pockets.”

The consequences of healthcare fraud can be extremely high, says Fuller. “If someone starts using their health information to get healthcare, that can be detrimental. It changes their health record. And for a yearly benefit, if someone uses it up, you can’t get it.”

In addition, seniors can often get duped into signing up for extra benefits or services they don’t need. “My clients get calls all the time from outside agencies talking about their Medicaid. Through them, with the Medicaid, they could get this, that, or whatever. Whether they are credible people or not, (seniors) can get hooked up with something that they wished that they never did.”

At past seminars, many seniors have recounted stories similar to the ones Fuller shares. “Sometimes people share that they have been a victim, which can be quite embarrassing to admit. Or they can relate because they are all getting these calls,” says Fuller. “We can’t educate enough. We’re trying to find ways to make everybody aware of this.

While the seminar is meant for seniors, anyone who works with or cares about a senior is welcome to attend. 

They all go home and say, 'I'm going to tell my book club about this or my church friends.’ So they share it,” says Fuller.

McCall hopes to generate a lot of interest in the seminar. She knows the issues addressed are important. This is the first time the seminar has taken place on the Eastside, and she hopes it will attract Eastside residents, though all Kalamazoo residents can attend.

“Not only is it because it’s part of our initiative nationally with our sorority, we just felt, as members of our community, seniors have been targeted,” says McCall.  “My father experienced that. Thank God he had a daughter that helped him understand that this was a fraud. We’re just trying to get the word out.”

Taking a Bite Out of Senior Fraud will take place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, April 20 at the Eastside Neighborhood Association, 1301 East Main. Raffle prizes and light snacks will be provided. Registration, which is limited and ends April 8, can take place by calling (269) 205-3921 or emailing economicdevelopment@dstkzoo.org.  People can also register at the Eastside Neighborhood Association. 

Read more articles by Theresa Coty O'Neil.

Theresa Coty O’Neil is a freelance writer, editor, and writing teacher with over two decades of covering people, places, and events in the Kalamazoo community. She is the Project Editor of On the Ground Kalamazoo.
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