A new phone scam is targeting seniors and you or your elderly loved ones may be at risk. The scam takes a variety forms centered around Medicare cards or supplemental insurance benefits, but the end result is the same — seniors are tricked into revealing their bank’s routing number and promptly ripped off.
Don’t let this happen to you or to the senior citizens in your life. Let’s review how this Medicare phone scam works, plus 5 safety tips to help you identify the scam and avoid it.
Caller Impersonates Medicare or Other Healthcare Official
Here’s what usually happens. The senior citizen gets an unsolicited call from someone who claims to represent Medicare or another insurance provider. The caller says they need to verify the senior’s information in order to issue a new Medicare card or provide healthcare discount services.
The scam is subtle. The fraudster begins by asking relatively ordinary questions, such as “Is this your correct phone number?” or “Is this your correct address?”
These easy questions manipulate the targeted senior in a way that’s similar to the “foot in the door” technique used by salespeople. By getting the victim to comply with smaller requests first, they’re more likely to respond to the scammer’s big question: “What’s your bank routing number?”
If the senior gives out their routing number, the scammer can access their finances and rip them off.
On Scambook, we’ve received over 100 complaints about a company called YR Benefits that’s allegedly stolen over $100,000 in damages from elderly Americans by cutting fraudulent checks after obtaining their routing number. According to one real Scambook user complaint:
Yr Benefits contacted my 87 year old mother and represented themselves as offering a Medicare savings. My mother has alzeimers and has no recollection of this phone call or what it was about. When I balanced her checkbook on 6/18 I noticed this “electronic check not signed by my mother, deducting $447.34 from her account. [source]
Scammers prey on the elderly because they’re more likely to have savings and less likely to question the identity of a caller who claims to be an official.
Seniors may also be easier to confuse and less likely to report a scam out of the fear of losing their independence.
That’s why it’s vital to raise awareness for these scams and share Scambook’s safety tips.
5 Safety Tips to Protect Seniors Against Phone Scams
In addition to everyday precautions like monitoring your bank account for unauthorized withdrawals, Scambook recommends these 5 tips:
1. Never give any personal information to an unsolicited caller. If you’re not expecting a call from your healthcare provider, it’s more likely to be a scam. No legitimate insurance company or Medicare representative will request personal financial information over the phone without prior notice.
2. Pressure to “act now” is a red flag. If the caller is promoting special discount benefits that are a “one time offer,” or if they use deadlines to coerce you, it’s a big red flag. Legitimate health care companies will never be rude or pressure you to act.
3. Hang up as soon as the call becomes suspicious. Trust your gut instincts. If the caller is speaking too fast and refuses to slow down, or if they refuse to answer questions or repeat themselves, this is another sign that it may be a scam. Hang up and don’t answer if they call back.
4. If in doubt, get the caller’s information, call the insurance company or Medicare, or research them online. Ask for the caller’s name, phone number or extension, and the name of their direct supervisor. Then, search for them on Scambook or use Google. If the caller does turn out to be legitimate, you can always call them back later.
5. Contact your healthcare provider. If you suspect that an unsolicited caller may have been trying to scam you, call your healthcare provider directly at the customer support number on the back of your Medicare card. If they really were trying to get in touch with you, there will be a record of the call.
Remember, scammers are also taking advantage of the confusion surrounding the new Affordable Care Act laws. Watch our video about Obamacare Scams to learn more.
We hope you’ll share this information with the senior citizens in your life and help prevent fraud. If you need help resolving an issue, click here to submit a complaint to Scambook.