Suffolk County urges caution and care when discussing Medicare issues with others
While many mature adults have expressed a variety of concerns about their safety and well being, as they continue to age, some of the most devastating and destructive crimes perpetrated upon this mature population are those involving financial scams and theft of personal identity information. One such crime involves the theft of Medicare identification information, cash for “ enhanced care /coverage policies, or the sale of unnecessary and costly supplemental policies.
Even though the period for open enrollment for Medicare has just passed, scammers are always on the prowl year round to snare those who are unsuspecting into their schemes for a quick buck which can devastate someone’s finances and security!
With personal information being shared by virtually everyone these days, scammers and everyone else knows the minute someone is ready to qualify for Medicare and Social Security. You get letters all the time soliciting your business for all types of programs, policies, or supplements.
Once your information is in the cyber-loop, it’s there for good! So the best way to protect your assets and your identity is to be proactive, well informed, alert, and cautious. Don’t be hesitant or afraid to say “ let me think about this, I need more information, send me something in writing, I must compare, or simply, No thanks!”
So you do not become one of the thousands of statistics targeted by Medicare scammers, here are a few tips to assure your personal information remains safe, your cash remains where you want it, and your identity is protected.
- While Medicare is a huge, government run program, Medicare or the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) will NEVER CALL YOU ,EMAIL YOU, OR VISIT YOUR HOME UNANNOUNCED, to collect personal data, verify Medicare or Social Security numbers, verify supplemental policies, demand checking account numbers, or any other personal information, according to Aaron Albright CMS spokesman.
- There are no plans to issue New Medicare cards! While a number of organizations have recommended issuing cards without Social Security numbers, the potential cost to changing the system could cost upward of $845 million. Any calls or notification you may receive alleging the you need to verify information for a new card is false. And, if you need to replace a lost or stolen cared you can call 800-772-1213, or ssa.gov.
- Overdue medical bills are a fact of life for many Medicare patients. Do not give out bank account or checking account numbers to anyone who may contact you by phone or mail. Sometimes the scammers tell the person that they need their checking account numbers to make sure that a payment goes through. Medical bills can always be discussed directly with your provider or their legitimate billing service by you making the call, not someone else.
- Caller ID is a false sense of security! Caller ID can have false identities created. Do not trust Caller ID just because they say they represent Medicare, Medicaid, your physician, your insurance company etc. Get a number that you can call back and compare it to the numbers you have on file for Medicare, Medicaid, your physician, etc. Medicare contact information is on the back of your Medicare card.
- Try to keep well organized, good records relating to your Medicare, Social Security, health insurance information. When you have it conveniently at hand. Try using a file folder exclusively for Medicare documents. Review your Medicare Summary that you receive quarterly through the mail. You can check it anytime at mymedicare.gov, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227)
- Be alert for “Free” scammers who offer “free checkups, free, medical supplies, free anything! Most of these “FREE” schemes are just a ploy to get your credit card information, social security information or Medicare information.
- Even though the time for open enrollment for Medicare has just passed, scammers are always trying to sell you supplemental policies that they claim “can save you thousands”. Before you sign up for any policy, check with your insurance company, attorney, or go to medicare.gov to compare Medigap policies.
Living a full life as a mature adult is a time to enjoy the harvest of our life’s work, experiences, and, to watch as our plans come to life! Those plans should not include providing scammers access to financial and personal information. By being cautious and vigilant, you can assure the safety of your personal, financial, and medical information.
For more information about this and other issues of concern regarding Medicare fraud or scams seeking personal information, go to www.AARP.org.
Information for this article was taken from AARP Bulletin, Oct. 2014 – author -Sid Kircheimer.