What do all the roughly 60 million Medicare beneficiaries in America have in common? Every single one is slated to receive a new Medicare card between now and April 2019. And because of that, every single one is a target for scam artists dead set on using the rollout of the new cards as a way to separate you from your hard-earned money.
Medicare Cards are On Their Way – Free of Charge
A few days ago, we found this article in both the print and online editions of the Seattle Times, titled “As Medicare issues new cards, scam callers try to profit.” This is not the first time we’ve warned our readers about this threat here on the AgingOptions blog, but because the danger of getting ripped off seems to be increasing now that the new cards are actually being issued, we felt it was a good time to sound the alarm once again. Here are the two things everyone enrolled in Medicare – and their families – needs to know. First, you will receive a new Medicare card, if you haven’t received one already. Second, there is absolutely no cost to you to get the new card. Anyone who tells you differently, on the phone or via email, is lying to you to get you to give them money.
“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,” says the article in the Times. “Hang up and keep hanging up. Or better yet, just don’t answer.”
Medicare Cards Use a New I.D. Number
According to the Seattle Times report, consumers here in Washington state began receiving new Medicare cards last month, and everyone in the Medicare system will have received their new cards by April 2019. The big difference is the Medicare account number: the government has at last stopped using Social Security numbers, a move which should better protect against fraud. Unfortunately, during the rollout of these new cards, those crooks and thieves out there are quick to smell an opportunity. “Scammers, of course, are hoping to catch seniors off guard,” says the article. “So consumers are being warned about odd calls and phony demands. Medicare is even running TV commercials to warn about potential fraud.” There’s a special website which helps consumers spot scams and other fraudulent behavior and provides instructions on how to report potential rip-offs.
Three Common Medicare Card Scams
The Seattle Times article describes three common tricks that Medicare scammers are using to get people to pay money or to provide them with personal information (such as bank account numbers), thus opening the door to rip-offs. If you or someone you love is receiving phone calls making Medicare-related claims like these, it’s a scam.
- “You need to pay for your new Medicare card.” This is absolutely false, say Medicare officials. “Your new card will automatically come to you,” the Times article asserts. “Consumers don’t need to do anything as long as their address is up to date.” (If you do need to update your address, contact your local Social Security office or go online to ssa.gov/myaccount.) Scammers may threaten to cut off or cancel your benefits. They may ask for your Social Security number over the phone. They may demand a payment for a “temporary card.” All of these claims are 100 percent bogus. And these callers will probably be pushy and persuasive, which is why it’s better never to answer their calls, and to hang up if you do.
- “You need to ‘reactivate’ your Social Security account.” In this scam, says the article, callers claim to be from the government, phoning to warn seniors that their Social Security number has been “suspended,” possibly because it was linked to some form of criminal activity. They tell the unsuspecting senior to call a special phone number to talk to a Federal Trade Commission investigator who will ask for some personal information in order to get the account reactivated. In another variation, you might receive a robocall telling you that there has been illegal activity involving your Social Security number and warning that your Medicare card will be withheld and your assets frozen until the alleged issue is resolved. Again, this is a criminal scam and completely untrue.
- “Medicare will send you $200 (or some other amount) because you’re a ‘good citizen.’” In this too-good-to-be-true scam, someone from Medicare calls to tell you that your new card is on the way, and that – because you’re such a good citizen or preferred Medicare customer – the agency is sending you a $200 cash bonus as a thank you gift. All they need is your bank account information. As transparently bogus as this sounds, many seniors continue to fall for it. It’s a fraudulent scheme designed to tap into your cash.
The Times also offers these three resources where seniors and their families can complain about fraud and other pestering phone calls:
- The AARP Fraud Watch Network, 877-908-3360 – or online at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork
- The Federal Trade Commission, online at ftccomplaintassistant.gov for telemarketing complaints
- The Federal Communications Commission – visit fcc.gov and click on “For Consumers” for false claims over the phone.
Good Advice is the Best Protection
The best protection against scams and frauds is good, honest advice. In the same way, the best protection against failure in retirement is good advice from someone who truly knows the retirement landscape. Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions understands that retirement planning is about much more than finances: a retirement plan that is robust and comprehensive has to include all the elements that factor into retirement living. These include housing choices, legal protection, medical coverage, even communication with those you love. Over the past two decades Rajiv has developed a unique approach to retirement planning called LifePlanning, blending all these facets into a blueprint that will help you protect your assets, avoid becoming a burden to your family, and escape the trap of unplanned, unwanted institutionalization. A LifePlan, in short, will help you retire successfully.
Find out more by accepting our invitation to join Rajiv at a free LifePlanning Seminar. We offer these popular, information-packed events at locations throughout the region, so we encourage you to visit our Live Events page for a complete calendar and online registration. Let us help you build the retirement of your dreams with a LifePlan from AgingOptions.
(originally reported at www.seattletimes.com)