by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
The phone calls are endless. You get offers of back braces and medical alerts. Someone calls and wants to help you save money on your Medicare costs. Maybe you have gotten a call that Medicare has changed and you need a new card. The open enrollment periods for both Medicare Part D and the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange are fast approaching, and this is prime time for scammers to call with confusing messages that put you at risk.
“The con artists are always looking for new opportunities to trick you,” states Barbara McGinity, Program Director, Texas Senior Medicare Patrol. “Understanding the different scams can help you not be a victim.”
Here are some of the most common scams and what you can do to avoid them.
1) A caller claims to be a federal employee and states that you need a new Medicare card because of Obamacare. To receive this card, you must provide your banking information.
McGinity says, “Medicare has nothing to do with your bank account. If you receive a call such as this, immediately hang up.”
2) An individual calls and says that your doctor wants you to have a back brace or to receive services in your home, but first, they need your Medicare information. Another trick is to tell you a family member ordered an item for you. Never give your Medicare number to anyone over the telephone or to anyone you do not know who comes to your door.
“Individuals should never take the word of a stranger who says your doctor told them to call,” states McGinity. “Take their name and telephone number and hang up. Then call your doctor and ask if they told them to call you. These people trick you into believing something that is not true.”
3) You receive a robo call offering you a “free” medical alert. To get more information just punch one or to get off their list, punch two.
“Never punch any numbers when you receive an automated call. When you follow these directions you are telling the scammers that this is a good telephone number answered by a live person,” says McGinity. “When you follow these directions, you put yourself on a list to be called by a real person who will then try to get personal information or money from you.”
4) A caller says you are paying too much for your Medicare and they want to help you. “This is most likely someone wanting to come to your home to discuss your Medicare insurance,” states McGinity. “If you are interested in talking to an insurance agency about Medicare coverage that is ok, but you need to make sure you understand all the changes that might take place with your coverage. Be sure to check with your doctor first before making any major changes, and get all information in writing before the agent leaves your home.”
The Texas Senior Medicare Patrol wants Medicare beneficiaries to protect themselves and their Medicare information. According to McGinity, “the best way to protect yourself is to not answer your phone. Screen all your calls. Remember that Medicare will not call you, and most importantly, Medicare is not free, Medicare is real money. It is taxpayer dollars and it is healthcare dollars.”
If you have questions about a phone call you have received, or want more information about Medicare fraud contact the Texas Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-888-341-6184.