Gainesville Daily Register

November 2, 2012

TCOG warns of potential Medicare scam

Staff Report
Gainesville Daily Register

Gainesville — Representatives of a Texoma Council of Governments agency sent words of warning Thursday about Medicare-related scams on the elderly, and how to avoid them.

Jennifer Ware of the council’s Area Agency on Aging said the key to recognizing a Medicare scam is how it arrives.

Typically, she explained, the postal system is the only valid route of contact between Medicare and its senior recipients.

Phone calls, e-mails and front-door visits are all very likely frauds in the making.

“Medicare does not call seniors directly,” Ware said. “They should remember not to give out their Medicare number to anyone who calls and asks for it.”

Ware said legitimate Medicare representatives send mail, but not e-mail, and they don’t make phone calls because this is not legal.

“They can’t do cold calls,” she said. “The senior actually has to make the first point of contact.”

Ware said authentic Medicare notification by mail will include a logo from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services. She added that she will soon make two presentations related to Medicare fraud — one at 2 p.m. Nov. 14, and North Texas Medical Center, and one at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 15, at Stanford House in Gainesville.

More about the scam

Representing themselves as government officials, the scam artists contact seniors by phone, e-mail, or by coming to their doors, asking questions about their health insurance or offering them new cards to replace their current card.  They trick seniors by using numbers that appear on the caller ID to be a local call or from somewhere in the United States, but in reality they use fake numbers to disguise that they are operating overseas.

Why do they want this personal information?  These crooks might be collecting Medicare numbers that will be used to commit Medicare fraud or medical identity theft.  

“Once a scam artist has someone’s Medicare number, they will pass it around,” said Barbara McGinity, Texas Senior Medicare Patrol project director.  “It is really important that you do not give out your Medicare number to strangers; protect it as you would your social security number.”

They also might be fishing for bank account numbers.  They trick people into giving out this info by asking for information on direct deposit of your social security check.  Once they have your banking information, they can steal money out of your account in just a few hours.

If someone comes to your door to discuss health care reform, do not let them into your house and immediately contact your local police.  If anyone calls you on the phone asking for personal information, hang up.  Being rude is the best way to protect yourself.  If you have given out banking information, contact your bank immediately to help close your account.

If you have questions about any phone calls you have received about your Medicare, you can contact the Texas Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-888-341-6187 or 713-341-6184.  

A nationwide program, the Senior Medicare Patrol works to educate seniors about Medicare fraud and abuse and is credited with saving taxpayers more than $100 million since 1997.