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Hang up and keep hanging up. Or better yet, just don’t answer.
Scammers are hitting mobile phones and landlines with all sorts of wacky pitches – including false claims about what you need to do to get a new Medicare card.
“The best thing you can do is not answer calls you are not familiar with,” said Mark Fetterhoff, a senior program specialist with the AARP Foundation as part of a recent robocall town hall promoted by AARP and the Federal Communications Commission.
Even if it looks like a local call, it’s probably not. Many times, scammers are engaging in “neighbor spoofing” to make the number look like it’s local. Fraudsters can spoof phone numbers easily and change that spoofed number regularly. You’re more likely to answer it if it’s a new number, experts said.
The robocalls, though, aren’t likely to stop. So it’s essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scams, be a little skeptical and ask yourself a few questions, like:
Do I really need to pay for the new Medicare card?
Short answer: Absolutely not.
Michigan consumers are expected to begin receiving the new Medicare cards – at no charge – sometime this fall, according to Amy Hennessy, a technical director at the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services.
Other states that are set to begin receiving the new cards in the future include: Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The roll-out of new Medicare cards began in April and has been completed in several states. New cards will be sent to all 58 million current Medicare beneficiaries by April 2019.
The new Medicare cards won’t contain your Social Security number and may provide more safeguards against fraud.
Scammers, of course, are hoping to catch seniors off guard. So consumers are being warned about odd calls and phony demands.
Medicare is even running TV commercials to warn about potential fraud and highlight its website www.medicare.gov/fraud.
A key point to understand: Your new card will automatically come to you. Medicare notes that consumers don’t need to do anything as long as their address is up to date. If you need to update your address, visit your mySocial Security account. See www.ssa.gov/myaccount.
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Never agree to pay for your new Medicare card; it’s free. You don’t need to pay up to $50 to get a new “temporary card,” either.
Don’t share any information if someone threatens to cancel your health benefits. Hang up and call 800-633-4227 to talk with Medicare. It’s also possible to visit the Senior Medicare Patrol at smpresource.org.
Don’t disclose any Social Security numbers to someone who calls as part of some way to get a new Medicare card. Medicare isn’t going to ask you for personal information to get your new Medicare card.
Don’t give your bank account information to someone who is offering to deposit a rebate or a bonus into your bank account because you got a new Medicare card. This, too, is a scam.
Do I somehow need to “reactivate” my Social Security number?
Short answer: Again, no.
Seniors reportedly are being inundated with phone calls from scammers who claim to be from the government and claim that somehow, someway the senior’s Social Security number has been suspended.
The scammer might say the Social Security number had “some connection to fraud or other criminal activity,” according to a warning from the Federal Trade Commission.
“They say to call a number to clear it up – where they’ll ask you for personal information,” according to the FTC.
Do not give them your bank account number. Don’t give them your Social Security number, either.
“The caller pretends to be protecting you from a scam while he’s trying to lure you into one,” the FTC said.
In some cases, experts say robocalls might warn you that you must contact the provided phone number about illegal activity involving your Social Security number. If you don’t do it, the automated call insists that your assets will be frozen until the alleged issue is resolved. Not true.
Seriously, is Medicare really going to send me $200 just for being a good citizen?
We all know the answer is a big no. But some of us like to hope.
Consumers report receiving calls from people who claim to be from Medicare and sound extremely friendly. The person then says Medicare will give them $200 for being a good citizen.
The trick here: All the senior has to do is give the caller their bank account information.
One consumer on an AARP-FCC town hall claimed that she did give out that bank information to get the extra cash.
But then, the scammer claimed that she clicked the wrong number and sent the senior $8,000 by accident. Would the consumer be so kind as to go out and buy gift cards – or give over her ATM number now – so that the extra money can be returned?
Fortunately, the consumer who gave away the bank account information didn’t hand over any gift cards or ATM information.
Even so, she still had to work with her bank later because she fell for the first step in the scam. If you’ve already given out bank account information, head to the bank immediately to try to fix the problem as soon as possible so scammers don’t gain access to your money.
Is the IRS calling victims of Hurricane Florence – or another natural disaster – to help them get a tax refund?
Scammers rip their stories right out of the headlines. So Hurricane Florence is a natural.
The Internal Revenue Service said con artists even claim to be working for the IRS or on behalf of the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
The IRS also is reminding consumers that scammers might impersonate charities or use bogus websites with similar names to legitimate charities to trick people into sending money or providing credit card or bank account information.
Don’t give out Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords to anyone who calls out of the blue soliciting a contribution.
Remember, storms bring out the scammers.
Following hurricanes, fraudsters have used caller ID spoofing and robocall technology to target residents of areas hit by the storms with scam calls about flood insurance, according to a Federal Communications Commission warning.
Who should I call if I’m worried about a scam?
Consumers can contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at 877-908-3360 to talk with a volunteer who is trained in fraud counseling. Or see updates on fraud alerts visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about scams or unwanted telemarketing, go to www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
To file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission about unwanted calls, go to www.fcc.gov. Click on “For Consumers.”
Contact Susan Tompor: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-222-8876. Follow Susan on Twitter @Tompor.