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Consumer Watch: Avoid Tricare fraud

Unsolicited calls, visits aren't from official contractors

Nov. 30, 2009 - 07:04PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 30, 2009 - 07:04PM  |  
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Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Charles Burns was highly suspicious when two men came to his home, claiming to be representatives of a Tricare contractor.

They had called his wife to set up an appointment, purporting to be from the company that was awarded the new Tricare contract for Region 5, which includes his town in Kentucky. "They told my wife it was an important change in health care and they needed to talk to us," he said.

"They asked to see my insurance ID card," he said, although there is no such thing. "They also were quoting speculation about cuts in Medicare, which I found insulting to a thinking person's intelligence."

But above all, he said, "they didn't seem to know that much about Tricare."

Burns asked for business cards, but they had none, so he does not have their names, the name of the company or contact information.

At some point in the visit, Burns said, "something set them off. They said they wouldn't bother us any more, and they would leave.

"I don't recall anything I really said, other than being belligerent and skeptical," he said.

Take a cue from the savvy retired sergeant major.

Tricare contractors don't visit beneficiaries' homes unless the beneficiary has a request that requires a visit, Tricare spokesman Austin Camacho said. So, if you receive an unsolicited phone call or knock on the door from someone claiming to represent Tricare, don't bite.

Don't feel pressured to buy something from someone who knocks on your door, and you certainly shouldn't allow strangers into your house.

Also, Camacho said, "Tricare personnel would never ask [beneficiaries] for personal information unless they call Tricare first and we need information to answer a question," he said.

If you suspect fraud, report it at www.tricare.mil/fraud">www.tricare.mil/fraud.

Longer layaways return to AAFES

Want to pick out your holiday gifts now and delay paying for them — without being charged credit card interest?

Your options have expanded at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which has brought back longer layaways for some items.

Most categories of items — including toys — are now eligible for 60-day layaway. And Toyland departments are indeed open. This gives parents extra time to pay for holiday toys, as well as a place to stash them away from curious eyes — even up to Christmas Eve.

AAFES had previously reduced layaway to 30 days for everything except fine jewelry, which stayed at 120 days.

Now, any purchase of $25 or more is eligible for 60-day layaway, except for clothing, handbags and shoes, which are limited to 30 days. A 15 percent deposit on the total purchase price is required.

Some merchandise categories are excluded from layaway — clearance, computers and peripheral items, major appliances, furniture, mattresses, exercise equipment, electronics $299 and up, and seasonal and outdoor living products.

Deals at Marine Corps Exchange

The Marine Corps Exchange is selling 227 essential items, such as milk, bread, diapers, baby food and formula, at cost — that is, without any markup — to give families a break. The exchanges began rolling out this program in March.

These items can be found in almost all Marine Exchanges and Marine Marts and are identified by the "Our Cost is Your Cost" logo. Brands vary by location, based on vendor availability.

Items in commissaries also are sold at cost, but commissaries add a 5 percent surcharge to cover the cost of store construction and renovation. Theoretically, it is cheaper to buy the same item at the Marine Exchange.

Regardless of your branch of service, you can shop at any exchange.

———

Questions or comments? Contact staff writer kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers at kjowers@militarytimes.com">kjowers@militarytimes.com.

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