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Now, more than ever, scammers target seniors

Published November 16. 2013 09:28AM

Medicare Open Enrollment is a period when seniors must take extra care to protect themselves from scam artists trying to steal their money and identity.

AARP states that the best way to protect yourself from being a possible victim is to never reveal your Medicare number, which is the same as your Social Security number; or any other personal information to anyone other than a certified member of your health plan company.

Below are types of scams that you may encounter and ways to protect yourself.

• Phone or door-to-door scams: Scam artists may call or visit you posing as a Medicare supplier in the hopes of securing your personal information.

They may state Medicare is issuing new cards and needs you to provide information to verify you are the correct person. They may ask for your birthday, Medicare number, financial account information and more.

Be aware that Medicare is not issuing new cards or calling beneficiaries without first being contacted by the person, AARP reports.

Don't be afraid to ask for their contact number so you can call them back to verify they are actually from Medicare.

• Phony organizations: Scammers may pose as an organization, state or federal agency or even a doctor or hospital to try and get your personal information.

Like phone scams, don't be afraid to ask for a phone number and call it back before giving any information. Medicare's number is 1-800-633-4227. Also, if you haven't contacted them, it is unlikely these organizations would be contacting you looking for information.

• Refunds and freebies: Some scammers may try to tell you that you are due a refund because of lawsuits or other actions. They may even ask for your bank information to expedite your refund.

If you have not applied for a refund through a lawsuit, most likely this is nothing more than a scam.

If you receive calls saying you qualify for freebies where you have to provide a credit card for shipping charges, don't give it. Contact Medicare or your local Area Agency on Aging to see if there is anything they can provide you with in the form of help.

• Doctor and health care provider billing fraud: Make sure you are dealing with Medicare approved doctors and health care providers.

If the doctor or provider asks for your Medicare information in exchange for free equipment or for record keeping purposes, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice reports, take warning.

If they get your information, they may bill Medicare under your account for services or equipment that you never received.

If you feel that you have been the victim of Medicare fraud or a scam, contact the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477 (TTY 1-800-377-4950); or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048).

Information they will ask you for include the provider's name that contacted you and any identifying information you have for them; what service you are questioning; the date that the service occurred; the date on your Medicare Summary Notice; your name and Medicare number as listed on your Medicare card; and any other pertinent information that you have.

Other resources that may help you include Senior Medicare Patrol programs, which can be reached at 1-877-808-2468 or the Carbon County Area Agency on Aging, 1-800-441-1315.

Information compiled from AARP and Stop Medicare Fraud by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice.

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