Coming as no surprise, scammers are targeting senior citizens in the growing number of crimes born from the new healthcare laws. In fact, across the country, law enforcement agencies are reporting an increase in these sorts of health insurance scams, particularly efforts of preying on the public’s confusion over the massive changes.
While no one is exempt from efforts of being scammed, law enforcement is reporting a higher number of elderly who are being targeted. They’re more likely to be home in the middle of the day to answer the phone, and they tend to have retirement savings that scammers believe they can hone in on. Even those who reside with their adult children aren’t necessarily safer from daytime phone calls. Scammers know they’re often the only ones at home during traditional working hours, so they’re taking advantage of that “prime time”.
“America’s rife with health scams,” says James Quiggle, communications director at the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud in Washington, D.C. “Crooks are offering fake health coverage, stripped down policies masquerading as real coverage. They’re also selling … fake Obamacare coverage,” he explains.
More than half of us still are unsure of what to expect from these new healthcare directives; no surprise considering the daily changes that are further complicating efforts of Americans who are committed to remaining in compliance. This is playing into those problems. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 83,000 complaints of “imposter scams” in 2012, marking a 13 percent increase from 2011. Those numbers are sure to explode by the time they’re tallied for 2013.
“Fraudsters are as attuned to what’s going on in the news as anybody else,” says Lois Greisman, who runs the division of marketing practices at the Federal Trade Commission. “A program as vast as the health care overhaul makes for a dangerous twist on the regular scams,” she adds.
The FTC has tips for seniors and their families.
“The first line of defense is don’t take a call from out of the blue from anyone who’s offering to help you navigate the new health care market,” cautions Greisman. “Those kinds of cold calls just shouldn’t take place, same thing with an unsolicited email, an unsolicited text.” If you have questions, your elder law attorney is your best resource. You can – and should – contact your elder law attorney for information on what kind of changes – if any – you can expect to Medicaid or Medicare coverage.
Never give out your banking information, Medicaid or Medicare ID numbers or other confidential information. Also, be aware that certain information found on insurance policies should be treated with attention paid to your privacy.
Never give out information over the phone, even if it appears the caller already knows a lot about you. Remember, they had to know something to find you anyway – they might have used a traditional phone book, which would provide your address and phone number, or they might incorporate the internet.
The Consumer Sentinel Network provides annual statistics regarding consumers and fraud. Last year, identity theft was the number one complaint. This means some fraudsters are looking for more – including identity theft. Caregivers are in a particularly beneficial position as they can usually catch suspicious withdrawals from bank accounts, behavioral changes and a sudden “new” friend.
Setting up medical and financial powers of attorney can help keep elderly loved ones safe from these types of scams. A qualified elder law firm can help put those important safeguards into place.