Phone scam uses Medicare to try and dupe seniors - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Phone scam uses Medicare to try and dupe seniors

(Source: NBC News) (Source: NBC News)

If you don't read anything else in this story, read this: stop answering calls from numbers you do not recognize on your caller ID, even if the area code is familiar.

Because Vickie Thompson, state health insurance program and Medicare coordinator for the Aging Commission of the Mid-South, said a local senior citizen answered a call that was a doozie.

"The caller claimed to be calling on behalf of Medicare and tried to charge her to enroll her in Medicare," Thompson said.

Thompson described the components of the scam call:

* CALLER CLAIMS TO BE WITH "THE UNITED STATES OF OMAHA."  It's an obvious attempt to sound like the legitimate Mutual of Omaha insurance company, but it is also blatantly absurd.

* CALLER CLAIMS TO BE WORKING WITH MEDICARE. Thompson said nobody with Medicare or representing Medicare will ever call you for anything.

* CALLER OFFERS A TOLL-FREE NUMBER FOR A 'CHECK-UP.' That will lead to a request for your credit card, debit card, or checking account number.

* CALLER OFFERS TO ENROLL YOU IN MEDICARE FOR $110. Whether you start taking Social Security benefits at 65, or as early as 62 at a penalty, the Social Security Administration automatically enrolls you in Medicare.

"It's a scam," implored Thompson. "Social Security will enroll you (in Medicare) for nothing. It is a service that is paid for by our federal government through your taxes."

A simple Google search of the toll-free number offered in the call connected it to several fraud attempts worldwide.

The call is what consumer advocates describe as phishing. It's an attempt to get either your personal information or your financial account information.

Since robo-dialer machines randomly generate these calls and use caller ID "spoofing" methods to disguise their origins, you should never answer calls you do not recognize on your caller ID, even if the area code is familiar or if the number happens to be your own number. When you answer these calls--even if you don't fall for the scam--you confirm to the caller that your number is a legitimate number. They will sell your number on mass marketing lists to other scammers, spammers, and telemarketers.

This spoofing technology renders Do Not Call registration useless and defenseless. The call volume will increase.

Your best defense is a simple defense: don't answer. The less you answer calls you don't recognize, the more they will taper off and disappear. The scammers will not continue to call a number that does not generate a human interaction.

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