DETROIT – It's one of the most common complaints that comes into the Ruth to the Rescue consumer unit: suspicious phone calls.
Recently, two types of scams have been brought to our attention.
First, several people have called or emailed Ruth to the Rescue about someone posing as a Medicare representative and asking for personal information that usually includes bank account data.
DO NOT BE FOOLED! Ruth to the Rescue checked with Medicare and we're told the real agency will never call you, out of the blue, asking for that information.
A spokesperson sent more fraud-fighting information you can find at the end of the article.
If you know a senior who's not on the computer, please print this information and give them a copy so they know to protect themselves as well.
Fake Police Threats
USA Today is also reporting on another scam that's hitting people across the country. In this scam, the caller poses as law enforcement, and may even disguise the caller ID to make the call seem legitimate. The "officer" is telling victims they have an outstanding debt or warrant, and could go to jail if they don't make a payment.
Again, legitimate police agencies do NOT call on the phone to tell people about warrants. It's highly unlikely the call is legitimate. You should be prepared to shut these callers down.
The Better Business Bureau warns people to never give personal information to anyone who calls you out of the blue, no matter what organization they claim to be representing. Ruth to the Rescue has seen scam calls and emails from people claiming to be from the U.S. Post Office, FedEx,DHL, Medicare, different banks, and even the FBI.
The CEO of the local Better Business Bureau Melanie Duquesnel says that these calls have all the classic signs of a phishing expedition. "It is all an attempt to essentially take your identity, replicate it, and use it for their own good and to your disadvantage," she said. Red flags for this kind of scam include looking for personal information, such as credit card, social security or driver's license numbers.
Hang Up or Question the Caller
In many cases, your best defense is to simply hang up when you suspect you're being scammed. Don't give the caller a chance to trick you into revealing any personal information.
However, if they say something that make your nervous, the next best defense is to start asking the caller questions. Ask them for a number where you can call them back.
"It is the quickest way to disarm this kind of fraud because 99% of the time, they do not want you to call them back," said Duquesnel.
Also, let them know you will also be looking up the legitimate number of the agency they claim to represent, or that you will go directly to your bank branch to check on their claims.
If you slip and give out personal information, Duquesnel suggests quick action.
"Call the police immediately. They'll get the ball rolling, they know what to ask in your regard, in terms of credit cards. They'll advise you appropriately," she said.
Here's a link to the local Better Business Bureau: http://detroit.bbb.org.
Additional Information from Medicare
Please report suspicious activities by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
The Michigan Senior Medicare Patrol, MMAP (Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program) is also a great local resource.
MMAP may be reached at 1-800-803-7174.
To learn more about health care fraud and ways to protect against it, visit www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
Here are some helpful tips:
· Remember to guard your Medicare number. Fraud schemes often depend on crooks first getting hold of people's Medicare numbers. So treat yours as you would a credit card. Don't share it with anyone except your doctor or other Medicare-approved health care provider and don't allow anyone else to use it.
· Report suspected cases of fraud. If you think someone has misused your Medicare number, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. If you suspect identity theft, or feel like you gave your personal information to someone you shouldn't have, call the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338. The Michigan Senior Medicare Patrol, MMAP(Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program) is another great resource. MMAP may be reached at 1-800-803-7174.
· Record doctor appointments. Use a calendar or personal journal to record all of your doctor appointments and tests. Note the dates of doctor appointments, and save the receipts and statements from your providers.
· Review claims submitted on your behalf. Look out for suspicious activities. Review your Medicare statements to make sure Medicare wasn't billed for something you didn't get. If you have Original Medicare, check your Medicare Summary Notice or you can download the Blue Button at www.mymedicare.gov <http://www.mymedicare.gov> and monitor your health information online or on your mobile device. Be wary of salespeople who knock on your door or call you uninvited and try to sell you a product or service. Never let anyone give you "free" equipment or supplies in exchange for your Medicare number.