Under the age of 65? This article is for you!
If you are over 65, pay attention. It’s impossible for anyone to miss this — we are in the middle of the Medicare open enrollment period, and the nonstop advertising on television proves the high-stakes nature of this. The Medicare open enrollment window is open until Dec. 15. This means you can enroll in an insurance plan or change your current plan to a supplemental or an advantage plan.
It is also a time for scammers!
Before making any changes, conduct research into what plan is best for you and be sure that a plan offered to you is registered and promoted by a registered agent. There are numerous restrictions placed on providers that limit the kind of contact they can use. Contact from providers with which you do not have a relationship is prohibited.
Billions of dollars are at stake, and where there is money, there is likely going to be fraud and scams.
In 2019, at least $60 billion was lost to Medicare fraud, and additional unnecessary costs were the result of errors. Medicare fraud basically occurs across the system: medical care, telemedicine, home health care, hospice care, diagnostic testing, transportation, prescription drugs.
Criminals see Medicare as an easy target, given that there are nearly 50 million beneficiaries. Identifying the potential victim is easy, since virtually all citizens over the age of 65 are in the pool.
Scammers target seniors in numerous ways. Impersonators use phone calls and emails to extract personal information, such as Medicare and Social Security account numbers, family information and more. The information is then used to commit theft from the victim through phony credit cards, loans and bank accounts.
The data is also used to steal from the system by filing fraudulent benefit claims. While this crime does not take money directly out of the pockets of individuals, it indirectly steals from people of all ages and places stress on the entitlement system for seniors.
Social media is yet another platform for fraud. Messaging is used to promote false claims related to products or treatments, which sets the stage for identity theft and monetary losses.
Impersonators make threats, stating that there were missed payments or fees which, if not paid, will result in termination of benefits. All the victim needs to do is purchase some gift cards and read the card number to someone on the phone in order to resolve the problem.
A third scheme involves approaching beneficiaries with offers of “free” medical equipment or services such as motorized wheelchairs, braces, home health checks or diabetic services.
If you find that yourself, a family member or person you know is either a target or a victim of Medicare fraud, report it to your state Senior Medicare Patrol: Massachusetts 800-892-0890; New York 800-333-4374; Vermont 888-865-2683. You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
Questions, concerns, comments? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, “Mr. Scammer,” distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, Vt. — gnat-tv.org.
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