Social Security and Medicare recipients need to be on the lookout for scammers who are trying to cheat them out of their benefit checks. Get to know these techniques and scams in advance so you can protect yourself.
Most of these fraudsters engage in caller ID spoofing, also known as neighbor spoofing, a technique that allows them to disguise their phone number and appear as a local caller. It turns out that people are more likely to answer the phone if they receive a call from someone in their area code.
One scam involves informing you that you need to renew your Medicare card, and that this will cost a fee. But the fact is, you will never be charged for a new Medicare card, whether temporary or permanent. This one can be confusing because Medicare is indeed issuing new Medicare cards. This process began in April and has already finished in many states. These new cards will offer more security and will not contain your Social Security number. This scam is so prevalent that Medicare is running TV spots to warn people about it.
Another scam involves the fraudster saying the Social Security number has been suspended. The tricky aspect of this scam is that they usually say your SSN has been suspended to protect you from a scam. These people will ask for your personal and private information, including your Social Security number and possibly your bank account number. They may give you a number to call, and if you call it, they may threaten to freeze your assets. This threat can really frighten people. “Many people on Social Security depend on their checks to get through each month,” says Cynthia C. Berger, a social security attorney in Pittsburgh. Even so, never give these people any of your information, even if they claim to be with the government.
If you get a call from someone claiming that you deserve $200 from Medicare for being a good citizen, don’t believe them. You may be a good citizen, but Medicare isn’t going to give you any extra money because of it. These guys will ask for your credit card information or a bank account number in order to make the deposit, but don’t do it.
A twist on this last scam can occur if you do give away your bank account number, expecting a deposit (and again, never do this). Some people have reported that the scammers claim to have deposited too much money on accident, by hitting the wrong key or something – a large amount in the order of $8,000 — and that they’d like you to go out and buy a bunch of prepaid credit cards and send them. It’s hard to believe that some people fall for this, but the scammers prey on older folks who may be under heavy medication, have dementia or simply be too trusting.