Scam calls on the rise

Ex­perts ad­vise to al­ways be aware when an­swer­ing the phone

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - SUNDAY MONEY - By Su­san Tom­por Detroit Free Press

Hang up and keep hang­ing up. Or bet­ter yet, just don’t an­swer.

Scam­mers are hit­ting mo­bile phones and land­lines with all sorts of wacky pitches — in­clud­ing false claims about what you need to do to get a new Medi­care card.

“The best thing you can do is not an­swer calls you are not fa­mil­iar with,” said Mark Fet­ter­hoff, a se­nior pro­gram spe­cial­ist with the AARP Foun­da­tion as part of a re­cent robo­call town hall pro­moted by AARP and the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion.

Even if it looks like a lo­cal call, it’s prob­a­bly not. Many times, scam­mers are en­gag­ing in “neigh­bor spoof­ing” to make the num­ber look like it’s lo­cal. Fraud­sters can spoof phone num­bers eas­ily and change that spoofed num­ber reg­u­larly. You’re more likely to an­swer it, if it’s a new num­ber, ex­perts said.

The robo­calls, though, aren’t likely to stop. So it’s es­sen­tial to keep up-to-date on the lat­est scams, be a lit­tle skep­ti­cal and ask your­self a few ques­tions, like:

Do I re­ally need to pay for the new Medi­care card?

Short an­swer: Ab­so­lutely not. The roll-out of new Medi­care cards be­gan in April and has been com­pleted in sev­eral states. New cards will be sent to all 58 mil­lion cur­rent Medi­care ben­e­fi­cia­ries by April 2019.

The new Medi­care cards won’t con­tain your So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber and may pro­vide more safe­guards against fraud.

Scam­mers, of course, are hop­ing to catch se­niors off guard. So con­sumers are be­ing warned about odd calls and phony de­mands.

Medi­care is even run­ning TV com­mer­cials to warn about po­ten­tial fraud and high­light its web­site www.medi­care.gov/ fraud.

A key point to un­der­stand: Your new card will au­to­mat­i­cally come to you. Medi­care notes that con­sumers don’t need to do any­thing as long as their ad­dress is up to date. If you need to up­date your ad­dress, visit your myso­cial Se­cu­rity ac­count. See www.ssa. gov/my­ac­count.

Never agree to pay for your new Medi­care card; it’s free. You don’t need to pay up to $50 to get a new “tem­po­rary card,” ei­ther.

Don’t share any in­for­ma­tion if some­one threat­ens to can­cel your health ben­e­fits. Hang up and call 800-633-4227 to talk with Medi­care. It’s also pos­si­ble to visit the Se­nior Medi­care Pa­trol at sm­pre­source.org.

Don’t dis­close any So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers to some­one who calls as part of some way to get a new Medi­care card. Medi­care isn’t go­ing to ask you for per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to get your new Medi­care card.

Don’t give your bank ac­count in­for­ma­tion to some­one who is of­fer­ing to de­posit a re­bate or a bonus into your bank ac­count be­cause you got a new Medi­care card. This too is a scam.

Do I some­how need to “re­ac­ti­vate” my So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber?

Short an­swer: Again, no.

Se­niors re­port­edly are be­ing in­un­dated with phone calls from scam­mers who claim to be from the gov­ern­ment and claim that some­how, some way the se­nior’s So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber has been sus­pended.

The scam­mer might say the So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber had “some con­nec­tion to fraud or other crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,” ac­cord­ing to a warn­ing from the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion.

“They say to call a num­ber to clear it up — where they’ll ask you for per­sonal in­for­ma­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the FTC.

Do not give them your bank ac­count num­ber. Don’t give them your So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber, ei­ther.

“The caller pre­tends to be pro­tect­ing you from a scam while he’s try­ing to lure you into one,” the FTC said.

In some cases, ex­perts say robo­calls might warn you that you must con­tact the pro­vided phone num­ber about il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing your So­cial Se­cu­rity Num­ber. If you don’t do it, the au­to­mated call in­sists that your as­sets will be frozen un­til the al­leged is­sue is re­solved. Not true.

Se­ri­ously, is Medi­care re­ally go­ing to send me $200 just for be­ing a good cit­i­zen?

We all know the an­swer is a big no. But some of us like to hope.

Con­sumers re­port re­ceiv­ing calls from peo­ple who claim to be from Medi­care and sound ex­tremely friendly. The per­son then says Medi­care will give them $200 for be­ing a good cit­i­zen.

The trick here: All the se­nior has to do is give the caller their bank ac­count in­for­ma­tion.

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