Beware Seniors in Westchester, Nassau and Fairfield Counties!
While seniors who are medicare beneficiaries may be targeted by phone scams and identity fraud all year, these fraudulent activities will pick up around the Medicare Open Enrollment (MOE) period from October 15 - December 7.
In 2020, more than $40 billion of Medicare's budget went to scammers or inappropriate billers. Giving your sensitive information - Medicare number, Social Security Number, Birth Date - to a stranger leads to a cascade of fraudulent activities by allowing them to set up false identities (ID Theft).
Westchester Government has a link to more information for seniors here:
Follow these tips below to protect yourself and your loved ones from common Medicare scams and how to determine whether calls or emails from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are legitimate.
Medicare used to print Social Security Numbers (SSN) on their cards to identify beneficiaries and their health insurance claims, but since 2018, CMS provided new Medicare cards without SSNs on them. Now the cards feature a beneficiary’s unique Medicare Number, which is STILL information that should be protected.Do not give this number out over the phone.
AARP recently posted about the "Becky" Medicare phone Scam to more than 60 million Americans who get their health care via Medicare. AARP's Fraud Watch Network helpline has been flooded with complaints about these genetic-testing calls, confirms Amy Nofziger, AARP's director of victim support. The call goes like this:
"Hi, this is Becky, your patient advocate working closely with Medicare. Currently, Medicare is offering precautionary genetic cancer screening nationwide and has recommended that anyone over the age of 50 be tested. These tests help to detect early signs of cancer and are covered by your insurance. If you do not act soon, Medicare may label you as ineligible for coverage. Please press 1 to speak to a specialist.…"
What is a senor To Do?
Urge seniors on Medicare to disregard calls from “Becky” from Medicare and any other strange calls.
Never – never, ever – give anyone your personal information, such as your credit card number unless you initiated the call, perhaps to your bank or to a catalog company.
If your loved ones do take the calls, let them know the hallmark Red Flags of a Scam:
Ask them where they are calling from. Does the Caller ID on your phone read Ohio, but the person on the line tells you they are calling from Florida?
Ask Them who they work for.
Ask them for a name of the test they are offering. They will not know anything about medical testing or any references for further information;
Tell them you want to call your own doctor first. Not surprisingly, they will tell you that is not needed.
The best way to protect yourself: hang up the phone.
Westchester Residents should notify the county’s Department of Consumer Protection right away at (914) 995-2167.
According to Rebecca Kinney at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), "There is nothing legitimate about what was happening [on these scam calls]. Medicare covers genetic screening only in very limited situations and covers diagnostic tests only when the beneficiary's physician identifies a symptom and orders the test. Being told not to speak with my doctor is a big red flag."
Other scams targeting seniors...
Westchester County Government keeps track of scams targeting seniors. Here is a partial list from their website of some of the most recent scams in our area:
The Medical Alert Scam
This scam seems to work through robo-calls where con artists tell seniors that they have been “approved” for medical alert equipment at no charge. They identify the business as “Senior Medical Alert” or “Senior Medical Advisors.”
Electric Service Companies
Con Edison continues to deliver electricity to homes and apartments but because of deregulation, other so-called “energy service companies” can provide the power. Be wary of callers who quickly try to get you to switch providers.
The Pigeon Drop
The con artist tells the individual that he/she has found a large sum of money and is willing to split it, if the Senior will make a “good faith” payment to the con artist by withdrawing funds from his/her bank account. Often, a second con artist is involved, posing as a lawyer, banker, or some other trustworthy stranger.
The Relative or Grandchild Scam
The con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the senior’s child, or grandchild or another relative is in jail or in the hospital and needs the money.
Magazine Sales and Lottery Scams
Magazine sales are offered with the proceeds going to fake charities. Lottery “Winners” can collect winning lottery amounts by first sending a finder’s fee.
If you would like additional information on how to keep your senior loved one safe from scams and fraudulent activity or how to hire a caregiver to keep them secure, please contact Jennifer Baukol at Jennifer@stepshomecare.com