Every year, the national Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) conference brings together many of the best investigative reporters in the United States and abroad. More than 2000 journalists attended IRE 2019 in Houston to learn investigative techniques and develop story ideas. High on the list: stories about fraud.
James Hoyer Investigator and Communications Director Angie Moreschi was invited to speak on a panel about detecting business fraud. For the presentation, she joined Wall Street Journal reporter Nicole Hong, Better Business Bureau International Investigations Specialist Steve Becker, and moderator Andy Donahue, editor of Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
“These are some of the smartest and best reporters in the world, so it’s always an honor and privilege to speak at the IRE conference. I try to offer useful, practical tips on how to find fraud against the government and ideas to help reporters tell these important stories to public,” Angie said.
The False Claims Act & Whistleblowers
Angie shared important information about how whistleblowers help to expose fraud against the government through the False Claims Act and how they help to recover money for taxpayers.
The False Claims Act is the law that makes it possible for private citizens to file suit on behalf of the government when they become aware of fraud at companies ripping off government agencies or programs. Through these whistleblower suits, the Department of Justice recovered $2.8 billion, last year alone.
There’s a lot of fraud out there and it takes many forms, from improper patient admissions, over-billing, and up-coding at hospitals; kickbacks for referrals; selling unnecessary medical equipment; pharmaceutical companies pushing the sale of drugs off-label; defense contractor fraud; and financial aid fraud.
Fastest Growing Types of Fraud
Healthcare fraud is far and away the number one type of fraud against the government, with DOJ estimating some $100 billion lost to healthcare fraud, every year.
One of the fastest growing areas is Durable Medical Equipment fraud. This is where unscrupulous companies often target senior citizens on Medicare and harass them with multiple phone calls everyday, trying to get them to authorize shipments of medical equipment or products. The big problem is many patients don’t need or want the items, but in several cases, the companies ship them anyway, and then fraudulently bill the government.
“It’s something all taxpayers should care about, because we all pay for it,” Angie said.
Presentation by Other Panelists
In addition to Angie’s presentation, Wall Street Journal reporter Nicole Hong talked about some of the biggest fraud cases covered by the paper, this year; and BBB investigator Steve Becker looked at some of the top areas of consumer fraud, including online romance scams, puppy scams, and business email scams.