Medicare Telephone Scams Resurface in Colorado
Two Medicare telephone scams have resurfaced in Colorado. The caller claims to represent Medicare or a business that provides Medicare services. They ask for personal information, such as a Medicare number or bank routing information. The Colorado SMP Medicare Fraud and Abuse Program reminds consumers that no one from Medicare will ever telephone you to ask for your Medicare number or banking information.
In one situation people call claiming to represent Medicare, Social Security or another government organization and ask for bank routing information to charge Medicare premiums. This is happening nationwide. The caller gives a name that sounds official, such as “National Medical Office” or “Medicare National Office”, and tells the consumer that they are getting a new Medicare card and will be charged a one-time fee for their Medicare premiums or prescription drug plan. The caller asks for banking information or a credit card number and is quite insistent that their Medicare will be canceled if they do not give the information.
In another scenario the caller says they represent a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) company that provides medical supplies such as a wheelchair or walker. DME suppliers are not allowed to “cold call” consumers to get orders for supplies. We received a report from a Fort Collins consumer who got a call from someone who said they were a DME supplier and wanted to take an order over the phone. This could have been someone wanting to defraud Medicare with a fake order or someone just wanting to get the consumer’s Medicare number or banking information.
Medicare representatives may contact Medicare consumers to ask survey questions about benefits, but the caller will not ask the consumer for their Medicare number or banking information.
Medicare fraud wastes money every year, resulting in higher health care costs for all. The Colorado SMP program works to help consumers learn to protect themselves and to detect and report Medicare fraud and abuse.
If someone calls asking for your personal information try to get information about the person and the company, including a telephone number, and report the call to the Colorado SMP program at 1-800-503-5190.
Postal Inspectors Target Scammers Who "Dial for Dollars"
January 9, 2006
Washington, DC - United States Postal Inspectors unleashed a two-pronged attack on fraudulent telemarketers, particularly those who target older Americans. The nation's Chief Postal Inspector Lee Heath announced the results of a law enforcement clampdown on scammers, "Operation Roaming Charge," and the unveiling of a new consumer protection campaign, "Dialing for Dollars."
"Every year, thousands of consumers lose from a few dollars to their life savings to various types of swindlers," said Heath. And these scams show no signs of slowing down. U.S. Postal Inspectors responded to 80,000 mail fraud complaints in 2003. This year, they have already responded to 78,000.
But Heath said that these two efforts will start to stem that trend: "Swindlers who use the telephone, computer, and the mail to defraud America's consumers are getting their own wake-up call." Joining with the Department of Justice, FBI, FTC, and Canadian authorities, Postal Inspectors contributed to the multi-agency round-up of fraudsters with 75 investigations, of which 43 were domestic and 32 were part of a cross-border initiative with Canadian authorities. U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigations resulted in 64 arrests and 64 convictions, resulting in sentences ranging from 5 months to 12 ½ years. Nearly one million victims suffered losses exceeding $650 million.
- In a Florida case, 10,000 older Americans lost more than $700,000 to a telemarketing scheme that solicited contributions to benefit law enforcement agencies, firefighters, and veterans' organizations. The organizations never received any of the "benefits." The operators will be spending the next 10 years behind bars, thanks to the efforts of Postal Inspectors.
- A gold and silver coin scam operating out of Minnesota defrauded 100 investors out of $550,000. The operators have been indicted and their bank accounts frozen. Postal Inspectors determined that the president of the company incorporated under a second business name and allegedly defrauded victims of another $100,000.
- A business-to-business telemarketing fraud scheme in New Jersey, involving kickbacks and bribes, resulted in a 30-month prison sentence for the operator. Postal Inspectors discovered that the operator sold packets of plastic gloves, valued at 33 cents, to hospitals through the country and billed the hospitals $80 for each packet.
- A cross-border investigation by Canadian law enforcement authorities and Postal Inspectors of an advance-fee scheme came to a successful conclusion when the operator was arrested crossing the border at Niagara Falls. The operator, a Canadian national, offered loans to over 500 victims in the United States. Not one loan was provided to victims, who suffered losses in excess of $1 million. The operator was convicted in Pennsylvania and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
But arresting the con artists is not enough. American consumers lose more than $40 billion a year to telemarketing fraud, according to the National Consumers League. And they usually don't get their money back, even when the criminals are brought to justice. Investment frauds, or "get rich quick" schemes, are a favorite of fraudsters who target older Americans--people over 50 years of age who want to secure their financial futures. "Making consumers aware of these scams and providing them with tips to prevent them from becoming victims are the second part of our 'one-two punch' of enforcing the law and preventing crime," said Chief Inspector Heath.
"Although we made 1,453 arrests for mail fraud last year and shut down 37 illegal telemarketing operations, our most effective weapon in preventing consumers from becoming victims is education. That's why we created the new 'Dialing for Dollars' consumer protection campaign," said Heath. Partnering with the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the non-profit advocacy group Call for Action, the "Dialing for Dollars" features an extensive awareness campaign that includes ads in newspapers and magazines, such as Reader's Digest, the AARP magazine, and the premiere reissue of Life magazine. The ads warn of the dangers of telemarketing fraud and provide protection tips for consumers.
Also featured in the campaign:
- A new DVD on telemarketing fraud, available for free by calling 1-877-987-3728, or by visiting https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/.
- Media and consumer-awareness events with Call for Action affiliates and congressional members.
- A video news release featuring a victim and telemarketing operator.
Working in conjunction with the campaign, the Senate Special Committee on Aging sponsored a resolution designating October as "Protecting Older Americans from Fraud Month." Committee Chairman Senator Larry Craig said the first line of defense against all types of fraud is to promote public awareness of the dangers of such crimes, the types of schemes in which criminals are likely to engage, and what consumers can do to report suspected fraud. "This campaign is a perfect example of the kinds of things we need to be doing to help older Americans protect themselves from this type of fraud," said Senator Craig.
Although most telemarketers are legitimate, Postal Inspectors advise consumers to be wary if they receive a pitch by phone, computer, or through the mail that promises you'll get rich quick, receive high returns with a low risk, or urges you to invest now. Chief Inspector Heath offers this advice: "Watch out! Get rich quick schemes can cost you plenty. Be skeptical of any offer that makes these promises."
Postal Inspectors offer these tips to protect you:
- Take your time in making a decision--don't rush into accepting "high profit, low risk" offers.
- Get all information in writing before you consider investing.
- Check out the firm by calling the Better Business Bureau, your state Attorney General, or consumer protection agency.
- Put your number on the National Do Not Call registry at 1-888-382-1222 or at www.donotcall.gov.
"We're hoping to prevent consumers from becoming victims and send a message to fraudsters that 'crime doesn't pay,'" said Heath.
November 17, 2005
Identity theft is currently one of the fastest growing crimes. It occurs when key pieces of an individual's personal information are acquired and used in a fraudulent manner. Such information includes, but is not limited to, one's address, name, social security number, date of birth and mother's maiden name.
Because this specific information is highly sensitive, it allows the thief to commit numerous types of fraud. More specifically, the thief has access to bank accounts, credit cards and social security benefits. The consequences of identity theft can be financially debilitating and may take years to correct. Therefore, the following preventative actions can be vital to protect yourself against such fraud:
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. If you are going on vacation, have a trusted neighbor collect the mail or request the Post Office to hold it for you until you return.
- Whenever possible, take outgoing mail to the Post Office.
- Never give personal information over the phone unless the call has been initiated by you. Use caution when you do!
- Memorize your PIN number(s) and social security number.
- Keep your receipts and account for your spending on monthly statements and bills.
- Shred material that shows your personal information. This includes pre-approved credit cards, bank statements and utility bills.
- Cancel credit cards that you no longer use and keep a list of cards that you do use.
In addition to these suggestions, it is imperative to secure your vehicle at all times. Never leave purses, wallets or any identifying information in the car. Always lock your vehicle, even when it is in the driveway or garage. Take care to safeguard yourself by removing all materials or possessions that have value. Identity theft commonly follows a vehicle burglary but it may be prevented by implementing these suggestions.
If you become a victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement agency and keep a detailed log of all contacts. It is also important to keep copies of all documents for your files.