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Always be on guard

Always be on guard

  • 3 min to read

Mary Loftis

Extension Associate, Nebraska Extension in Burt County and SHIIP Counselor

No, this isn’t a fencing sport competition, but when it comes to your money or your identity you need to always be “On guard!” Being on guard can be a tiring position. You always need to be ready to protect or defend something and that means you can’t let your guard down…no matter how smooth the caller might be.

I’ve received an increasing number of calls from local Medicare recipients about phone calls they’ve gotten recently from potential scammers. In some cases the caller says they are calling from Medicare, note to self, Medicare doesn’t call. Don’t ever give any information to someone who says they are calling from “Medicare.” Hang up! You don’t have to be polite to anyone who calls you wanting to “help you” unless it is a friend or relative. Social security also does their business by mail, so unless you called them, don’t share any information.

Another scenario was a caller asking the Medicare recipient if they had back or knee pain. That question covers a pretty large segment of our older society. This person was offered an excellent back brace and Medicare would pay for it. Of course they had to give them their Medicare number and this individual did. However they realized they should not have done that and called me for help. I called the Nebraska Department of Health SHIP state office in Lincoln to get the best counsel on the situation. The individual was encouraged to send the brace back, keep track of all addresses and correspondence and to keep an eye out for their Medicare Summary Notice to make sure it didn’t show up as being paid by Medicare. If it is, they are to contact me with that information so the state can go after the scammers before they wrongfully take more money from the Medicare program and your supplement plan. I also encouraged the Medicare recipient to contact their health provider to alert them of the situation so they wouldn’t “rubber stamp” the approval of the brace.

Medicare Advantage plans have been heating up the phone lines trying to get people to enroll in their Medicare Advantage plans. I’m not saying they don’t work, but be very careful about enrolling without knowing the positives and the negatives of the plans. It will do you no good if you get all these extra “free services” if the plan isn’t accepted by your preferred medical providers.

The services of a Health Advocate was another ploy for information a client mentioned. They were unsure what that meant and I explained that a Health Advocate would be making your health decisions…of course with all your health information in hand. Yes, we should all make contingency plans like this, but we want someone in charge of our health to be a person who truly cares about us – not some slick caller on the telephone.

Just now I got a call – on my cell phone supposedly from Valentine, Neb. The automated caller said he was “Officer Michael Brown of the Social Security Office. Due to the fact there had been some suspicious activity involving my social security number, it would be suspended and permanently blocked. If I needed help with this situation I should press #1.” It just never ends! If you really need to call Social Security to verify any information always use their regular number – for the Omaha office call 1-866-716-8299 or the national Social Security office number is: 1-800-772-1213. Never connect to a number they tell you to.

As I said earlier – you don’t have to be polite to any caller asking health or financial questions. You were raised to be polite and we should all be polite to those who deserve it, not these bottom feeding scammers. Tell them “I’m not interested, take me off your list, take me off your list and take me off your list!” (Sometimes they need to be told three times to make it “official” you don’t want to hear from them again.) Then HANG UP! If you can get their phone number and name, write it down. Getting good information on these callers can only help someone else in the future!

Remember to be “On Guard” to protect yourself and your health information from unscrupulous scammers.

If you need help recovering from an “information over-share” please call me, Mary Loftis at Nebraska Extension in Burt County at 402-374-2929 and we’ll make a formal complaint. Losing sleep over these situations isn’t healthy for you either and the Nebraska SHIP organization is here to help you.

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