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Attorney General's office warns of scam
Seniors' Social Security payments falsely threatened

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Virginians are being warned by the state attorney general to protect their personal identity information due to a number of scam calls to Medicare recipients.

In these calls, the scammer threatens to terminate coverage or cut off Social Security checks if the recipient refuses to provide information, according to a release from the office of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

The office of the Attorney General in conjunction with the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) advises Medicare recipients who receive these scam calls to refuse to give personal information such as Medicare or Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit or debit card numbers, or birth dates.

“It is critical to remember to never give out your personal or financial information when someone initiates a call to you,” said Cuccinelli. “Instead, hang up and call the number for the organization that’s published in the phone book, so you can be sure you are talking to the right people. If you suspect you've been a victim of medical identity theft, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.”

Medicare identity thieves use high-pressure tactics to try to coerce their targets into giving up their personal information. They also try to confuse their targets into believing they represent the government or private insurers and will cancel their services if they refuse to cooperate.

“Unfortunately, during the Medicare enrollment period, scammers will try to take advantage of older Virginians,” said DARS Commissioner Jim Rothrock, formerly of Martinsville. “It’s important for beneficiaries to understand that Medicare will never call them to ask for personal information, including bank account or Social Security numbers.”

Earlier this month, DARS’ Division of Aging began hearing from Medicare beneficiaries around the commonwealth about suspicious calls requesting personal identity information. Virginia’s Senior Medicare Patrol program is also cautioning beneficiaries that complaints have been made in the Lynchburg area regarding scam calls offering free Life Alert systems accompanied by requests for personal information.

The complaints come as people who changed Medicare Advantage insurance plans receive information through the mail about their new coverage, which may lead them to think the calls are legitimate. The disenrollment period for those leaving a Medicare Advantage plan for “original” Medicare ends Feb. 14, while beneficiaries who enrolled in non-renewing plans have until Feb. 28 to select a new plan.

People can learn more about protecting themselves or loved ones from medical identity theft at www.medicare.gov/help-and-resources/identity-theft/identity-theft.html.

If you suspect medical identity theft, or feel like you gave your personal information to someone you shouldn't have, contact:

• The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General to report suspected fraud at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477) or TTY 800-377-4950 and online at https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud/index.asp

• The Senior Medicare Patrol at 800-938-8885 or www.virginiasmp.org

• The attorney general’s identity theft program to learn how to recover from identity theft at ag.virginia.gov, then click on Programs and Resources/Identity Theft.

The attorney general and DARS will be releasing radio and TV public service announcements later this month to alert recipients and their families about the scams.

 

 
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