Action Line: Don't fall for Medicare scams over the phone
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
2/05/13 at 6:39 AM
Dear Action Line: I got a call from someone claiming she was with Medicare and calling seniors about a new Medicare card they are sending out. She wanted my Medicare card number and birth date. I've never been asked for this by phone and hung up on her. Did I do right? - S.C., Tulsa.
Yes, Dudley. LIFE Senior Services in Tulsa is receiving reports from seniors about Medicare-related telephone scam calls saying the same thing you heard - that Medicare is issuing new cards to beneficiaries and needs their personal information so they can send the cards to the right people.
Cindy Loftin, coordinator of the service's Medicare Assistance Program, warns seniors this is definitely a fraudulent call. "Medicare is not issuing new cards and does not initiate phone contact with beneficiaries. Even if they did call, they already have your Medicare number, birth date and so on. Any information from Medicare on updates or changes come only in letter form." People receiving bogus Medicare calls are urged to hang up the phone.
LIFE Senior Services has a fraud warning booklet, available free online or through the mail: "Protecting Yourself from Scams" tulsaworld.com/Seniorline and also by calling 918-664-9000 for a free copy.
The booklet advises, "Know that you are at risk when doing business with strangers. Do not believe or trust unsolicited salesmen or callers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Stay involved with friends, family and community activities. Isolation and loneliness increase your risk of being scammed.
"Tell unsolicited callers you don't buy from phone offers. Don't be pressured into making a quick, on-the-spot decision. Make a practice of not giving to charities that solicit by phone. Scammers often claim to be with charities sounding like trusted national charities, but aren't. Don't open the door to people you don't know and don't buy from door-to-door salesmen."
Even with legitimate charities, when telemarketing firms make the calls, the charity is probably getting only 10 percent of the donation. Sign up for the "Do Not Call" Registry at www.donotcall.gov or 888-382-1222 to remove your number from telemarketing lists.
Never give your credit card, banking, insurance or personal information (including birth date and Social Security or Medicare numbers) over the phone unless you initiated the call. Medicare, Social Security and your bank will never ask you to "verify your personal information" on a call they initiated.
Use "direct deposit" for benefit checks and mail checks from a postal substation or public mail drop (not your front porch). This protects your checks from being stolen from your mailbox.
Shred credit card offers and mailed applications as well as receipts with your credit card numbers on them.
Original Print Headline: Beware of Medicare scams over phone
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.