Beware of Door to Door Wheelchair Sales

by Donna McCollum

Police in Nacogdoches are warning East Texans about an alleged medicare scam. It involves the delivery of so-called "free" scooters and electric wheelchairs. This questionable way of doing business harms unsuspecting elderly people, as well as all taxpayers.

Gale Benton, 83, walks all around his Nacogdoches home. He even walks to church sometimes. So why would he need a wheelchair?

"I don't know. I thought it was sent here by the government," said the elderly man.

Even more perplexed was Benton's grandson, who helps look after his grandfather's personal affairs.

"Here sitting in the living room is a very expensive-looking electric wheelchair," recalled Johnson.

Johnson ordered that the wheelchair be picked up. Immediately he suspected a scam.

Reputable dealers like Monty Woodford of Texas Mobility Products said Johnson's hunches are probably right.

"They're billing Medicare for one item, a power electric wheelchair and in many cases delivering a second item which is a much cheaper item, which is out-and-out fraud," explained Woodford.

Customers in Nacogdoches, Timpson, Garrison and Center have been approached by people claiming to be doctors who can sign-off on the Medicare request.

Johnson said, "This person was supposedly passing himself off as a physician. I've never known a physician riding around in a vehicle and signing prescriptions off on the spot for something like that."

They don't. Nor do they sign customers' signatures on documents which concerned Johnson. "What concerned me about the invoice, one was his signature, two were not his writing."

There are other reasons why you need to make sure you're dealing with a reputable company. Medicare or Medicaid will only purchase a mobility item for a person once. If you get one from a dishonest source and it turns out to be a lemon your chances of getting future help are slim.

Law enforcement is warning customers to be wary. Johnson provides the same advice. "Do not give out personal information, consult your own physician, and do not let someone dupe you into believing he is a physician."

"I didn't need it. Really, I can get around pretty good," said Benton.

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