By Ingrid Kundinger, Wisconsin Senior Medicare Patrol Project Manager
Did you know that it is OK to hang up on scam callers? In fact, it is strongly encouraged! We all need to hang up when the fraudsters call so that we can reduce the impact that scams have, especially on older adults.
While the telephone allows us to stay connected, it is the fraudsters most useful tool. Calls for medical equipment, health insurance plans, new Medicare cards, Social Security issues, etc., seem legitimate. That’s the problem, the scammers are really good at their jobs. They develop rapport, create a sense of urgency about the product or service being offered, and request personal information (Medicare number, Social Security number, bank account information, credit card information) to complete the order or transaction. It’s that simple. Or is it?
To help protect loved ones from telephone scams, remind them:
• not to trust that people are who they say they are. Scammers pretend to be from Medicare or the Social Security Administration (SSA) and ask for personal information, sometimes threatening current benefits if you don’t comply. Those threats are not legitimate. Medicare and the SSA don’t call people.
• that if someone on the phone says something like “you have to pay right now”, “this is time sensitive”, “you won”, “just pay shipping”, or “I just need to verify your Medicare number”, not to provide any information and hang up.
• that they have the right to say no and end the call. In fact, ending the call, without sharing any personal information, is the best way to prevent scams.
The Wisconsin Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is a statewide program that is focused specifically on Medicare fraud and errors. Why is this program necessary? Because Medicare loses billions, yes BILLIONS of dollars each year due to fraud and errors. Did you know that Wisconsin Medicare beneficiaries are impacted by Medicare scams daily? The calls range from back braces to cardiac genetic test kits to new Medicare cards. With the verification of a Medicare number, this equipment will be on its way and Medicare will pay for it.
The problem with these calls is that when someone “verifies” a Medicare number, that number is now compromised and could be used to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare. You or your loved one could end up with boxes of medical supplies that you didn’t want or need and were not ordered by your health care provider. And Medicare made payment on a fraudulent claim. The only party that wins is the scammer. Unless the scam is reported. That’s where the Wisconsin SMP can help.
The Wisconsin SMP is a resource for Medicare beneficiaries, family members, caregivers, and professionals focused on providing education about how to prevent, detect, and report suspected health care fraud and errors. The toll-free Helpline, 888-818-2611, is a place to report concerns, suspected fraud, or request assistance. The SMP team looks for opportunities to participate in local health fairs and senior expos and provides presentations for groups and organizations. All the services and resources provided by the SMP are free of charge and confidential.