Early this spring, a Garrison resident received a telephone call during which the caller identified himself as being with the National Medical Office. The caller indicated extra discounts on eye glasses and dental care are available to Medicare beneficiaries who have their Social Security checks deposited directly into their checking accounts. He went on to say that because of these extra discounts new Medicare cards are being mailed to Medicare recipients. He indicated beneficiaries who have direct deposit will not receive a letter specifying the change, as they are all being called directly.
The caller already had the beneficiary's name, address, phone number and the nine-digit routing number of her checking account. The caller told the beneficiary her new card would be mailed in four to five business days; he just needed her to verify her checking account number.
"I think you have enough of my numbers," said this savvy beneficiary, as she realized this was a scam and hung up on him.
This story has a happy ending. Our Medicare beneficiary did not give out her checking account number to the scammer. She knew to call her bank and have her account flagged to watch for unusual activity. She also called the Attorney General's office, which suggested she contact the North Dakota Senior Medicare Patrol, a project of the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities on Minot State University's campus, to alert them of this scam. ND SMP provides education to Medicare beneficiaries on Medicare scams and how to protect themselves against Medicare fraud.
Medicare beneficiaries should never disclose personal financial or medical information over the phone. Remember, these scammers are masters at getting people to reveal personal information. Just as in this case, a scammer poses as a Medicare specialist and then asks for a bank account or credit card number. Once the scammer has these numbers, they can wipe out victims' savings or run up large amounts of credit card bills.
The number of cases in which scammers target Medicare recipients is increasing. The result is potentially large financial losses for the elderly, who may be ill-equipped to investigate fraud, be embarrassed at having been fooled or may not know where to turn for help to recover their money.
To report a potential Medicare scam, or if you feel you have been the victim of a scam, contact the ND SMP by phone at 858-3580 or e-mail email@example.com.
For more information, visit the Web site (www.ndcpd.org/smp).
Linda Madsen is project director for N.D. Center for Persons with Disabilities in Minot and for the N.D. Senior Medicare Patrol program in North Dakota.