Medicare Scams

Scammers are at it again, this time contacting seniors in an attempt to obtain personal information by asking them to reveal Medicare, Social Security or bank account numbers, or pay a fee to receive a $250 Medicare rebate check. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging are getting reports of Medicare beneficiaries getting contacted by phone, mail or in person and asked for personal information in exchange for a $250 Medicare rebate check. These one-time rebates are automatically mailed to Medicare recipients when they reach the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap, also known as the donut hole. Normally, a Medicare recipient will receive their $250 rebate check within 45 days of reaching the $2,830 expenses threshold for prescription drugs during a calendar year. Once that threshold is 19

met, the recipient must pay all prescription drug costs until expenses reach $3,610. That‘s when low-cost Medicare drug coverage at the catastrophic level kicks in. The $250 rebate check is intended to help citizens offset the cost of prescription drugs. It was part of the health care reform legislation passed earlier this year. The new law addresses the gradual elimination of the donut hole over the next few years. We want to protect our seniors and are warning them to be on the alert for scam artists, said Sharon Gire, director of the OSA. These one-time Medicare rebate checks will be mailed to eligible individuals automatically and if contacted, seniors should not provide their personal information.

Phone fraud warning signs:

When you give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud. Some warning signs that you may be talking to a scam artist:

They say that you must act nowor the offer won't be good.

They say that you must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.

They say that you don't need to check out the company with anyone, including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau or consumer protection agency.

They say that you don't need any written information about their company or their references.

They say that you can't afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk free offer.

Avoid being a victim:

  • Medicare advises seniors to be wary of individuals who approach them with offers of good deals on Medicare prescription drug coverage. According to Medicare officials:
  • Be wary of door-to-door salespeople. No one is authorized to come to your door uninvited with the purpose of selling you Medicare prescription drug coverage.
  • Do not reveal personal health or financial information. Legitimate companies who sell Medicare prescription drug policies are not authorized to request personal information during marketing activities.
  • Always protect your Medicare number. Like your credit cards and bank accounts, your Medicare number is personal and should not be given to strangers.
  • Before you reveal personal information or sign a contract, confirm that the company is legitimate. Medicare has a list of approved companies, so it‘s easy to confirm that the company and coverage you choose is legitimate before you sign up or reveal financial information. If a salesperson pressures you to sign up without giving you time to check, run the other way.

Note: If you have questions about Medicare coverage, call 800-MEDICARE, or go online to www.medicare.gov. If you suspect fraud, contact your local police or the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General at 800-HHS-TIPS. [Source: Kalamazoo Gazette article 21 Jul 2010 ++]

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