Senior Citizens Beware

The time is ripe for scammers to target the elderly around the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period that begins October 15th and ends December 7th, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The BBB and the DHHS recommend that consumers never give out their personal information over the phone, especially if it is from an unsolicited caller. They also suggest that people who receive such calls hang up immediately.

DHHS’ Nebraska Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) has received numerous reports from seniors in retirement homes and low-income housing who were contacted by phone by scammers claiming to be from Medicare. The scammers said they were issuing “new” Medicare cards that had additional options.

“I want seniors to know that Medicare is not issuing cards with ‘new’ options,” said Vivianne M. Chaumont, director of the Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care.

A Lincoln woman recently received a call telling her she’d get a new Medicare card with new options if she’d give her bank account information. Thinking the new card may be connected to Health Care Reform, she gave her bank account number. After hanging up, she contacted the State Health Insurance Information Program counselor who’d been helping her enroll in Medicare Part D, and was advised to contact her bank immediately to stop withdrawals from her account.

The scammer did try to steal her money but fortunately, the bank had already closed her account. Nebraska SMP quickly mobilized their volunteer network to spread the word about the scam and reported it to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

In another Medicare scam, patients with diabetes are being targeted. The bait behind these calls is nothing new—an alleged offer for free medical supplies, which in this case is a promise for free diabetes testing equipment and other medical goods. The hook is to get the beneficiaries’ Medicare and Social Security and sometimes bank and credit card numbers which are then used to commit identity theft or to get free medical treatment in the senior’s name.

“This scam is especially worrisome because the imposters appear legitimate, since they actually know the name and address of doctors who treat their intended victims. Such information could come from stolen medical records that have been accessed by scammers,” stated Jim Hegarty, president and CEO of the BBB.

For legitimate help with free or low-cost supplies, you should place the call yourself — to your doctor or to a condition-centric group such as the American Diabetes Association or American Heart Association.

Medicare Fraud can take many forms. Below are some tips from the BBB and the SMP to help seniors avoid Health Care Fraud:

* Never sign blank insurance claim forms
* Never give blanket authorization to a medical provider to bill for services rendered
* Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket
* Carefully review your insurer's explanation of the benefits statement. Call your insurer and provider if you have questions
* Do not do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that services of medical equipment are free
* Give your insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services
* Keep accurate records of all health care appointments
* Know if your physician ordered equipment for you


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