The federal government is advising senior citizens to be on the lookout for new Medicare scams that can separate you from your cash in no time at all. The focus is on three big scams that Uncle Sam wants seniors to be vigilant about – along with some tips to stop scammers in their tracks.
Here’s what the government is advising older Americans to watch out for:
1. The “Poser” Scam
The government is on the lookout for scammers who pose as Medicare employees – and you should be, too. The fraudsters either call, email or send a letter asking Medicare patients for their bank account, Social Security or credit card numbers. The federal government will never call you on the phone or send you a note looking for your bank account number or Social Security number. Anyone who claims to be from the government, and wants that data is about to commit a crime. So hang up the phone or ignore the letter.
2. The “Healthcare Reform” Scam
With the media spotlight on health care reform fading slightly, criminals are crawling out of the woodwork looking to take full financial advantage of the public’s under-awareness of health care reform. The federal government is advising seniors to watch out for scammers peddling “health care reform insurance policies” that have limited enrollment periods. To get “reform protection” seniors must hand over their Medicare numbers to the identity thieves. Some even ask for your bank account number to cover an “upfront” fee. Don’t fall for it. Nobody can sell health care reform insurance – it’s a bogus policy, and it’s to be avoided at all costs.
3. The “Free Lunch” Scam
Some crooks – especially in the inner cities – will try to lure vulnerable seniors to phony health clinics with the promise of a free meal or a free gift. Once at the clinic, the scammers will try to get your Medicare number and use it to commit Medicare fraud. Again, no official government program offers free gifts to get you to go to a health clinic – turn this invitation down flat.
Health care giant Humana has a good list of rules to live by for Medicare recipients looking to avoid consumer fraud. Here’s a look:
Keep your personal information safe:
- Don’t give your information to anyone who comes to your home or calls you uninvited selling Medicare-related products.
- Only give personal information to doctors or other providers who are approved by Medicare and to people in the community who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program or the Social Security Administration.
- Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227); (TTY users call 1-866-653-4261) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if you aren’t sure if a provider is approved by Medicare.
If you lose your Medicare card or it is stolen:
- Call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1-800-772-1213.
If you think someone used your personal information:
- Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227); TTY users call 1-877-486-2048 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Or call the Fraud Hotline of the HHS Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477; TTY users call 1-800-377-4950.
- Or call the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 to make a report; TTY users call 1-866-653-4261.
Photo by Geir Halvorsen, via Flickr