By Erica Greenspan, LCSW-C
Coordinator, Resident Services
It is typically around tax season that Americans report an uptick in fraud or scam calls from individuals claiming to be from the IRS. The caller usually sounds very credible, they might know a piece of personal information about you, perhaps your name or the last four digits of your social security number, and they typically express a sense of urgency, “We need your social security number immediately, or else you will incur a massive penalty.” Out of fear or confusion, we might be quick to provide them with the requested information, leaving ourselves vulnerable to identity theft.
This year is unique in that Medicare is mailing out new insurance cards to all beneficiaries. This process began in April 2018 and will last through April 2019. As a result, scammers have seen this as an opportunity to prey on vulnerable older adults who might find it routine that Medicare is calling them. There have already been several reported cases of this scam here at Riderwood, and from what we’ve learned, these clever scammers can be very convincing. They may provide a surprising bit of information on you, referencing a recent surgery or hospitalization. You will wonder “How do they know that about me?”
Here is what’s needed to protect yourself:
-Know that Medicare or Social Security will never call you to request personal information over the phone. If they need something from you, they will send an official letter in the mail. If the caller claims they’ve already sent a letter, ask them to send it again.
-Jot down the caller’s phone number and report it to Riderwood Security, who can work to block the phone number from reaching you again.
If you suspect you may have been scammed, take the following actions:
– Report it to Medicare by calling 1-800-MEDICARE
– Monitor your medical bills and statements
– Inform your bank, and monitor your financial activity
– Initiate fraud protection with the three national credit bureaus. If you call one of them (i.e., Experian 1-888-397-3742), they will notify the other two.
You may feel shame or embarrassment for having “fallen” for a scam, so much so that you don’t want to notify a family member or the authorities for help. This is very common, but remember that these callers are well trained at deceiving individuals. It is always best to reach out for help to protect not only yourself but your peers.