The phone rings, and often these days, the call is a telemarketing call. These calls are usually not from within the United States but from a foreign call center, blatantly ignoring the law.
These illegal calls are scams. These are fraudulent callers who masquerade as representatives of Medicare, Social Security, or Medicare supplemental insurance companies or insurance agents. However, the goal is to deceive the elderly into exposing their private financial information. Identity theft could result from such information being disclosed.
They frequently trick your Caller ID into showing that they are calling from Medicare or a nearby phone number by using phone spoofing technologies. The initial part of the phone call may be a computer robot who can engage you in a very human way. The robot's job is to get someone screened to speak with a live person. Once you get to the live person, the scam starts. They often tell you they will connect you to a "licensed agent" but must get your personal information first to verify your eligibility.
Those on Medicare receive numerous calls from scammers (often with foreign accents) who claim to represent Medicare, Social Security, or an insurance company. These callers claim that new Medicare benefits are now available at little or no cost and must verify their personal information.
The computer robots which started the call sound very legit, but you should be cautious as they get information from you so you can speak with the "licensed agent." There is no licensed agent there.
The scam artist wants to confirm your name, date of birth, zip code, and Medicare number. Medicare will never call anyone to ask for or check Medicare numbers.
New Medicare Cards Eliminated Social Security Number
The Trump administration, several years ago, had the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) remove Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards. CMS completed this effort and mailed new Medicare cards without Social Security numbers to people with Medicare. This was an effort to protect personal identity and reduce fraud and abuse. Yet, that Medicare number and personal information can be valuable to a criminal.
If you are on Medicare and have not yet received the updated card, call 1-800-MEDICARE for assistance. They will verify your identity, check your address on record, and help you get your new card.
Caller Trying to Trick You into Information
These scammers can sometimes be aggressive and rude in their attempt to "help" you get your new benefits. They may already have enough information about you to lure you into thinking the call is legitimate.
Some people are looking into changing Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription plans or changing their Medicare supplements. When a senior gets the call, they might have an interest, but unless a senior or a family member has requested information and they are returning the call, consider it fraudulent.
Protect yourself or a loved one from becoming a victim of identity theft or Medicare fraud by guarding your Medicare number — and other personal information.
Ways to Avoid Being a Victim of Fraud
Here are several tips to help avoid fraud. Share these with older family members as well:
Never reveal your Medicare number or any other personal information to a caller who calls unexpectedly and asks you for it.
Be wary of anyone who calls and says they can help you enroll in Medicare or get extra Medicare benefits but first must verify your Medicare number so they can provide you enrollment information.
Do not rely on caller ID. Scammers employ technologies to conceal their actual phone numbers. They can make the caller ID display numbers that appear to be real.
If you get a call and they claim to be calling from Medicare or an official "Medicare agent," consider it a scam. Medicare never will call you.
Actual "licensed insurance agents" are not allowed to call you without your advance permission under federal law. They can return your phone call, email, on online marketing requests. Every licensed insurance agent will have a "National Producer Number" or "State Insurance License Number," which they will readily provide you with if you request it.
Don't respond to a telemarketing call relating to Medicare. Hang up on robocalls or other telemarketing calls pitching insurance plans.
Scam Calls Keep Coming
Scam telemarketing is an unfortunate risk for seniors as it preys on their good intentions and unawareness of illegal foreign call centers attempting to obtain their private information. The number of these calls is increasing, and it is hard to avoid them unless you never answer the phone.
Older adults who become victims of these scams can quickly lose large sums of money, putting them in a precarious financial situation.
Unfortunately, seniors are more likely to be targeted by scammers. They may be more trusting of strangers, less likely to verify information, and less likely to realize they have been scammed. Therefore, it is essential for family members, friends, and caregivers to be vigilant and look out for suspicious telemarketing calls. It is also vital to inform senior loved ones of common scam tactics so that they can better protect themselves.
When you get a Medicare-related telemarketing call, just hang up. Refuse robocalls and other telemarketing calls that try to sell you insurance. Remember that if you had requested the information, a "real human being" will call you. If you are unsure if they are legitimate, ask for their insurance license and phone number - then call them back.
Read Medicare.gov's Parts of Medicare and learn about what Medicare covers and the difference between Medicare, Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap), Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid. If you need help with Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE or visit the Medicare website.
About the Author
Contributor since April 22nd, 2021
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