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Julio Cortez, Associated Press
Edward Kahrer, assistant special agent in charge in the FBI Newark Division, talks about the agency's advertising campaign against health care fraud at Johnson Park, Monday, July 25, 2011, in Hackensack, N.J. FBI Newark launched the drive to increase awareness and reporting of health care fraud in New Jersey. This is a program that is exclusive to New Jersey.

HACKENSACK, N.J. — Federal authorities in New Jersey rolled out a pilot program Monday aimed at encouraging the public to report suspected health care fraud.

Citing an estimated $7.5 million in losses in New Jersey from health care fraud in 2010, the FBI's Newark office unveiled a series of digital advertisements that will be placed in shopping mall kiosks and on highway billboards across the state.

"Most people probably don't recognize health care fraud," FBI spokesman Bryan Travers said. "Most people probably think: 'The government will take care of it;' Well, we will, but we need to know where it's happening."

Health care fraud accounts for one of the largest losses of taxpayer dollars from any government program, according to Travers, who said despite heavy losses in New Jersey, only 18 cases of fraud were reported by the public in 2010.

FBI officials, working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, hope to increase the number of tips they get from anyone who suspects a health care provider has overbilled them, filed claims for procedures that were not performed, or believes a health worker might be unlicensed or improperly billing an insurance company.

The New Jersey ad campaign will run for two months, and if successful, will be expanded nationally. It marks the first time the FBI has used advertising to promote one of its general investigative programs, according to Travers.

The FBI worked with Clear Channel Outdoor communications to craft a series of four advertisements, each aimed at different audiences, from young parents to the elderly. They'll be posted on digital billboards along interstates 95, 80, 78, 287, and 280 in New Jersey, as well as in 40 kiosks in 13 malls throughout the state.

Private insurers say the cost of health care fraud is steep in New Jersey. A fraud investigations unit at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey reported it recovered a record $35 million in fraudulent claims or savings in 2010 and is estimating similar numbers for 2011.

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Nationally, a report by the Government Accountability Officer released earlier this month showed that the federal government's systems for analyzing Medicare and Medicaid data for possible fraud are inadequate and underused.

An estimated $60 billion to $90 billion in fraudulent claims are paid out each year by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administer taxpayer-funded health care programs for the elderly, poor and disabled. The report found the agencies lacked adequate plans to overhaul their data systems to combat the fraud.

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