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TMCNet:  Scammers calling seniors

[January 10, 2013]

Scammers calling seniors

Jan 10, 2013 (The Decatur Daily - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A local nonprofit organization is warning area seniors about scammers attempting to obtain personal information by claiming to be Medicare or Social Security representatives.

Better Business Bureau of North Alabama Regional Vice President Tricia Pruitt said she has been flooded with reports from local residents the past two months.

In some cases, the scammers use software to alter their name and phone number to appear as if they are from a local, state or federal agency on the victims' caller IDs.

BBB President Michele Mason said Medicare and Social Security scams spiked nationally about two years ago.

"The scams come in spurts," she said. "We've seen all different kinds of Medicare scams over the years. We see it all year long, but sometimes it varies from area to area." Seniors in Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence counties have reported receiving calls from scammers offering free Medicare medical equipment in exchange for bank and other personal information.

Other scammers have tricked seniors into providing financial and Social Security information to receive a new Medicare card. In one case, a Hazel Green woman's monthly disability funds were redirected to another bank account after her Social Security number was stolen last September.

Pruitt said it's rare for Medicare or Social Security representatives to contact residents by phone.

"We've all been working together on this trying to make sure our seniors are aware that this is not legitimate and it's important to know Social Security and Medicare will never call to ask for personal information unless you call them first," Pruitt said. "All of their correspondence is usually by mail." Mason said the No. 1 defense against becoming a victim is not giving out bank account, Medicare, Social Security or other personal information to unknown individuals, especially by phone.

The BBB advises residents to question any unauthorized items on medical bills, Medicare notices and insurance explanations of benefits for medical equipment.

Tips for not becoming a victim -- Be suspicious of door-to-door and telephone solicitations.

-- Do not provide financial, Medicare or Social Security information to unknown individuals.

-- Review medical bills, Medicare notices and insurance explanations.

-- Only give Medicare information to trusted medical providers.

-- Keep records of medical appointments, procedures and equipment.

-- Call BBB of North Alabama at 256-533-6456 or visit www.northalabama.bbb.org.

SOURCE: BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU ___ (c)2013 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) Visit The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) at www.decaturdaily.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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