Most seniors know that it’s a really bad idea to give out their bank account numbers and Social Security number over the phone to strangers.
But what if the caller claims to be from Medicare and says that if these numbers are not released, “You will lose your Medicare” and will have no insurance at all? If this happens, hang up. The call is a scam.
Medicare will never call a senior and ask for these numbers. Seniors are being bullied and frightened into giving up personal information, even against their better judgment, because the scammers can be demanding to the point of threatening. Eastern Area Agency on Aging has been averaging a couple of calls a week from nervous seniors who have succumbed to the pressure and given up this valuable information.
In one case, the caller said he was offering a “new and better Medicare Part B plan that offered dental.” There is no such plan. Another senior reports she was told, “I know where you live. Give me your numbers immediately.” She did and then called Eastern Area Agency on Aging, which called the police and her bank.
Then there is the “outdated Medicare card” claim. The caller informs seniors that they must provide their Medicare numbers for verification, so that new cards can be made. Seniors are also asked for the name of their financial institution and their financial routing and account numbers. Again, seniors are told that if they don’t get the new card, they will lose their Medicare coverage because the old card will be invalid.
The best course of action is to hang up. Do not be swayed and do not fall for any line the caller recites.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills issued a warning recently because the fraudulent Medicare calls are becoming rampant. She recommends that if you have divulged your Social Security, Medicare or banking information, call your bank and review your Medicare statements carefully to see if anything is amiss. Call 800-MEDICARE immediately if you see anything suspicious.
If you think you’ve experienced a Medicare scam, call the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 626-8849. And trust your gut. If a little voice is telling you that something doesn’t seem right, listen to it.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.