Have you noticed that when you look up a phone number online, the age of the person is listed as well as the phone number and address?
That tool can be used to target seniors for fraud. And the confusion surrounding the launch of the Affordable Care Act (nicknamed “Obamacare”) seems to have given some criminals a new opening for exploiting seniors.
Typical scammers begin by telling the senior that the rollout of the new law requires new Medicare cards. They repeat the basic information easily found online and then ask for the person’s bank name and account number. Often the caller will say, “This is your last chance,” or “You have a limited time to act.”
First, never give out your financial information over the phone to someone you don’t know. If you have any doubts, say that you will investigate and call the person back. Second, Medicare is not sending out new cards, and no one from Medicare will contact you over the phone, by email or in person as a door-to-door representative. Any website that purports to give information should end in the .gov suffix.
Even discussing your medical history, treatments or insurance may open you up for identity theft.
This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Park Bugle. Check out the links below for other recent Park Bugle stories:
Why the emphasis on seniors? The fastest-growing segment of our population is also the group that controls about 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, according to Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. Pair this with the fact that financial capacity is one of the first abilities to decline as cognitive impairment develops, according to the AARP, and you have a recipe for disaster. Between one in 10 of those over age 65 have been victims of financial fraud (and this does not take into account the many who do not report these crimes because they are too confused, fearful or embarrassed to do so).
Of course, seniors are not the only ones susceptible to fraud. A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll showed in late August that about half the public still does not understand the Affordable Care Act and how it could affect them. If you are not sure about what to divulge over the phone, ask a lot of questions and hang up if you are pressured.
There are several resources for seniors concerned about any kind of fraud. The Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging has a Senior LinkAge Line (800-333-2433) staffed by specialists trained in health and human services. They will talk with you and can send out a packet about fraud and identity theft. Information on consumer education and avoiding scams can be found at www.mn.gov/commerce/consumers.
If you want to verify a caller’s legitimacy before giving out information, call 800-318-2596. MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace, has set up an email address where consumers can report fraud, abuse and ethical violations (email@example.com) and you can call the Contact Center line at 855-366-7873 with any questions.
Michelle Christianson is a longtime contributor to the Park Bugle and a resident of St. Anthony Park.