Beware of telephone imposters

by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

When your telephone rings, you expect the person on the other end of the line to tell you who they are and why they are calling you. But scammers are coming up with more elaborate ways of fooling you into thinking they are someone else.

We call this wide range of scams “imposter scams,” because the person on the other end of the phone is pretending to be someone they are not in hopes of getting you to give them money or personal information. Here are just a few examples we are seeing around the state:

• Grandparent scam. This scam typically involves the scammer pretending to be a grandchild stuck in some situation in need of money. The “grandchild” might say they are stuck in a prison in Mexico in need of bail money, or maybe in Italy with a lost passport or in New York in need of a bus ticket. The scammer might use bits of information he or she has picked up from a real grandchild’s social media accounts to make the call sound real – perhaps mentioning the name of a family pet or a favorite food.

• Electricity bills. Several major utilities in the state have reported scammers calling customers pretending to be from your electric company trying to collect on a past-due bill. The scammer will threaten the consumer with shutting off their electricity if they do not pay immediately.

• Jury duty. In this scam, the caller claims to be from a local law enforcement agency telling you he or she has a warrant for your arrest because you missed jury duty. But, if you send them some money right away, they can take care of it.

• IRS. The scammer in this call claims to be from the IRS calling about a problem with your tax return. Just like in the other calls, the scammer wants you to send him money right away to resolve the situation. The caller may threaten you with an audit or heavy tax penalties if you don’t send the money immediately.

In all of these scams, the caller will almost always want you to wire money immediately, or to purchase a prepaid cash card and call them back with the number. These methods of sending money are very hard to trace and almost impossible to get back once it has been sent.

Don’t give in to threats of arrest or IRS audits. In Kansas, if you miss jury duty, you will get a letter asking you to contact the court to reschedule your service. Court officers will not call you and ask you for money for missing jury duty. And, the IRS advises taxpayers that if there is a problem with your tax return, they will notify you by mail – not through a threatening phone call.

The key to all of these scams is to be skeptical of the person calling. Even if you think the call might be legitimate, hang up and call the person back at a phone number you know is real – whether it is a grandchild, your electric company, court clerk or the IRS. Don’t call back the number from your caller ID. Find the legitimate number through the phone book or your billing statement. Ask for help from a trusted friend or relative, or even your local police or sheriff, before sending any money. If you feel like you may have been the target of a scam phone call, you may simply want to delete and block the number. However, you could turn to the AnyWho alternative and use a reverse phone lookup tool to try and identify your scam caller. Then, you could report the caller to the authorities.

You can also call our Consumer Protection Division at 800-432-2310 or visit online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org. Our consumer protection specialists are there to help you protect your wallet from these telephone phonies.

Car runs out of gas, hit by semi

A 31-year-old Kansas City, Kan., woman was southbound on 18th Street Expressway just north of Metropolitan about 11:30 a.m. July 28 when her 2000 Buick car ran out of fuel.

It was hit from behind by a semi, according to a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper’s report.

The Buick’s driver was injured and taken to a hospital.

The passengers in the car were not injured. They included a 31-year-old Kansas City, Kan., woman; a 1-year-old girl; and a 4-month-old girl.

The driver of the semi, a 67-year-old man from Shawnee, Kan., was not injured.

Prime Healthcare, parent company of Providence Medical Center, to buy two Carondelet hospitals in KC area

by Mike Sherry, KHI News Service

A West Coast hospital company has agreed to acquire two hospitals and other related facilities as part of a deal with Kansas City, Mo.-based Carondelet Health, the parties announced Monday.

The buyer is Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare Services, which has signed a letter of intent that includes the acquisition of St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs.

Carondelet Health is part of Ascension, of St. Louis, the nation’s largest nonprofit Catholic health system.

A news release said that three Carondelet Health long-term care facilities – Carondelet Manor, Villa Saint Joseph and St. Mary’s Manor – would remain part of Ascension along with the two hospitals’ charitable foundations.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

According to a news release, St. Joseph and St. Mary’s have 450 beds and 900 physicians on staff combined.

Ascension had previously announced a deal to sell the two hospitals and related facilities to HCA Midwest Health System, but the deal fell through earlier this year because of federal regulatory concerns.

Prime Healthcare acquired Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth and Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., last year from SCL Health System, a nonprofit, faith-based health system in Denver.

Only a few months after the deal, SCL sued Prime Healthcare for alleged breach of contract and infringement of intellectual property. The case involved billing practices.

In January, a federal judge remanded the case to the District Court of Leavenworth County, Kan.

The deal with SCL required the approval of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who reviewed the transaction because it involved the transfer of nonprofit medical facilities to a for-profit company.

Ascension spokesman Nick Ragone referred questions about any such review of Carondelet deal to the office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. His media relations office did not have an immediate answer.

Prime Healthcare came under scrutiny by a nonprofit investigative news organization in 2011 for allegedly questionable Medicare billing practices.

Prime Healthcare has put an emphasis on acquiring struggling hospitals. According to the news release announcing the deal, the company’s motto is “Saving Hospitals, Saving Jobs and Saving Lives.”

“Our goal in working with the Board of Carondelet Health during this process has been to strengthen the ministry so its associates, physicians and volunteers are able to continue to provide exceptional, caring health services to the community for years to come,” Robert J. Henkel, executive vice president of Ascension and CEO of Ascension Health, said in the release.

“We believe this is a positive step for the greater Kansas City community as well as our colleagues at Carondelet Health,” Henkel said. “Meanwhile, Ascension will continue to serve the community by helping to meet the growing need for senior services.”

The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute. It is supported in part by a variety of underwriters. The News Service is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy-making environment. More about the News Service at khi.org/newsservice or contact us at 785-233-5443.
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