10-15-2019

BBB: Hang up on phony Medicare phone calls

Kentucky Press News Service

Lexington – Medicare open enrollment in health and drug coverage plans for 2020 begins Ot. 15 and ends Dec. 7. The Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky issued a news release warning seniors to beware of scammers who might try to steal their information and money during this busy and potentially confusing time.

In 2018, BBB Scam Tracker received more than 500 reports about scam calls claiming to be from Medicare representatives. Protect yourself and your loved ones from this common scam by knowing the red flags, BBB said in its news release.

All these scams start with a call that may appear on your caller ID as Medicare or Social Security Administration, but they have many variations. The scammer’s goal is to steal your information for their personal benefit. Some of the most popular versions reported to BBB Scam Tracker:

· A Medicare impersonator calls and offers you something for free, such as a back or knee brace. All you have to do is share personal information, such as your Medicare number or Social Security number, to “confirm” your identity.

· A caller may want you to “verify” your new Medicare card, which were sent to seniors between April 2018 and April 2019. One Lexington resident called the BBB saying a scammer told her that her new Medicare card was no good, and she needed to tell him her number so he could send a new one. She didn’t fall for it.

· Scammers attempt to intimidate you by claiming there is a problem with your Medicare or Social Security benefits. They may claim there has been “suspicious activity” on your account and if you don’t give them the information they need right away, you are in danger of losing your benefits or worse.

The Medicare website states that anyone representing their office or a plan will call and ask for personal information ONLY in these situations:

· A Medicare health or drug plan can call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join can also call you.
· A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE can call you if you’ve called and left a message or a representative said that someone would call you back.
· Medicare also reminds seniors that while you’ll probably get brochures from companies offering Medicare health and prescription drug plans, plan reps are not allowed to call or come to your home without an invitation from you.

How to protect yourself:

Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you receive a call from a number you haven’t saved to your contacts, or if your caller ID says “unknown,” don’t pick up the phone. Also, know that scammers can dupe caller ID and mask their true phone number. A legitimate caller will generally leave you a voicemail and request that you return their call.

When in doubt, hang up. If you do answer a call from an unsolicited caller and are greeted by a robocall or even a person who claims to be with a government agency, just hang up. Don’t press any buttons, don’t engage in conversation and don’t ask to be removed from the calling list.

Know how government agencies work. Government agencies don’t call or email consumers unsolicited. Instead, they send letters if they need to contact you.

For more information on Medicare open enrollment, plans and other help, log on to www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE.

Consumers may report scams to BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.