BBB warns seniors of ‘free’ Medicare scam

Staff Report

Medicare’s open enrollment period begins Wednesday, Oct. 15, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 7. That makes this the peak season for scammers to make telemarketing calls that trick seniors into revealing personal information or agreeing to be billed for medical devices that don’t exist. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is urging senior citizens to be aware of the warning signs of medical identity theft scams.

Here’s how the scam works: You receive a prerecorded call saying that you have been selected to receive free medical supplies. Common offers include a personal emergency alarm system, medications or supplies for a specific health condition, such as diabetes. The caller will ask for personal and/or insurance information, and the “free” products never arrive.

In other variations of these scams, the recorded call claims that you can get an alarm system or medical supplies worth several hundred dollars free or for a low monthly charge. Another version involves a caller claiming that a “doctor-ordered” medicine or medical device is already in the mail and the call is confirming the shipment.

Scammers try to take advantage of senior citizens because they are among the most vulnerable consumers,” said Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “It is important to never give out your bank account information, address or social security number to anyone over the phone.”

Here are signs that a caller is trying to scam you:

  • Tries to create a sense of panic. Scammers try to scare victims into immediate action, don’t fall for it.
  • Claims you have been specifically identified for an offer but doesn’t know your name or anything about you. This is a sign that the call is actually being blasted out to thousands of phone numbers.
  • Promises something for free, that really isn’t. Be wary of “free” offers that ask you to pay a handling fee or other charges.
  • Implies an endorsement from a well-known organization. In some cases, the call claims the alarm system is endorsed by the American Heart Association and the “American Diabetic Association,” which can be confused with the legitimate “American Diabetes Association.” Others claim a good BBB rating, so be sure to check this on BBB.org.
  • The business doesn’t have a legitimate mailing address and website. Victims of this scam report that staff refuse to provide basic business information, such as the address.

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