A recent edition of The Register-Herald had a front page story describing how prolifically fraud schemes continue in Ohio and across the nation. The article noted that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received almost 70,000 fraud reports from Ohio last year at a cost of over $86 million. The article further reported that fraud losses nationwide from “imposter scams” remain “the most common type of fraud reported to the agency” and exceeded the previous year’s monetary intake by more than $2.3 billion.
While the article basically highlighted the magnitude of the problem, it did not provide specifics as to scams themselves. However, I must say that many of these “imposter scams” have been identified and described in detail in this column over the past year and it is my intention to continue to help you, and others you know, be aware and hopefully avoid being defrauded.
A fraud about which I have written in the past has recently continued with even greater number of calls; that is someone calling you, claiming to be with “U.S. Medicare Benefits” or some such similar sounding organization that wants to know if you have received your new Medicare card.
I received one such call as I was in the process of composing this very column. I tried out my new approach on the caller, telling him, “Yes, I received my new Medicare Card a couple of weeks ago. It arrived by special carrier which surprised me because I did not know the U.S. government used such special carriers.”
The caller proceeded to ask me what color was the new card and if it was paper or not. I told him that it was “a shiny gold colored plastic card” and that “I was really impressed with how spectacular it looked.” Amazingly enough, he persisted by continuing to ask me questions about the card I supposedly had received which tells me that there is much more at stake in this fraud than meets the eye. I finally told him, “You know I am lying to you because this is a scam since there is no such thing as a new Medicare card and number that replaces my old number,” at which point I hung up.
A representative from Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) confirmed to me that “there has definitely been an uptick in calls regarding new Medicare cards.” As noted in an earlier column, SMP stated that “the only way your Medicare number can change is if you request a change for some reason, such as your number has been compromised.” If that is the case, you can contact the Senior Medicare Patrol to assist you. There is an SMP in every state, established several years ago by the federal government. They are there specifically to educate and help seniors with respect to Medicare fraud. In Ohio, you can call them at 1-800-488-6070 or contact their website at: https://www.proseniors.org/contact-ohio-smp-form/. While you are welcome to contact them for help regarding instances of Medicare fraud, they will never initiate an unsolicited call to you.
The danger of this fraud is that once you confirm your Medicare number to an unsolicited caller, they can then order all kinds of medical equipment in your name without you even realizing you have been scammed until you either realize your “new card” never arrived or you check the medical summaries sent to you which would show items being shipped that you never received. How many of you carefully check those statements each month?
Another similar scam making the rounds with increasing frequency is the call, again from a “Senior Benefits Group” or similar sounding “agency” claiming that they want to make sure you are receiving all the Medicare benefits to which you are entitled.
The other day, I received one of those calls that my Caller ID showed was from a local person and phone number. This is called “spoofing” and, as was reported earlier in this column, is illegal and punishable by both Federal and Ohio State statutes. When I pointed out the double illegality of the call, it did not deter the caller from trying to hook me up with a “licensed agent.” Like you, I did not have time to continue the call, in order to try to obtain a name and contact information and then report them to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or the Federal Trade Commission. Of course, the caller expects that to be the case which is why they remain so bold.
It is not my intent to just rehash previously covered scams, but at times it seems prudent, such as this month. In future columns, I do have other fraudulent schemes that I will be covering. So, until next month, stay warm and stay vigilant.