Crimewatch with Walt Candelari
TEXAS SENIOR Medicare Patrol is a wonderful source of information that helps older people avoid scams. Here are some of the tips offered by TSMP:
If a telemarketer calls from a charity, request that the organization sends all of the information to you in writing so you can do an assessment.
If the caller is selling something, again ask for the information in writing and tell them that you do not make decisions over the phone. Take the caller’s name, the name of the organization and a call-back number. Keep the conversation brief and do not let the caller change your mind!
There are certain red flags for Medicare calls. Is the caller asking for your credit-card or banking information? Do they want to know your Medicare or social-security numbers?
Do they have some of your information but want you to give them more or to “verify” what they have? Is this a pressure call – one that demands you make a decision now?
If you can answer “yes” to any or all of these questions, hang up! Report the call to TSMP at 1-888-341-6187.
Carefully check your Medicare or any medical billing statement and watch for charges for items you have not received or services your doctor has not ordered, as well as double billing. Report any issues to the TSMP.
TSMP offers a free personal health care journal by the US administration on aging that helps organize all your questions and expectations when you visit a healthcare professional. It is an easy way to keep track of what is being said, what is being done and by whom. Contact TSMP at 1-888-341-6187 or 713-341-6184 for information on how you can obtain your copy.
You need other numbers and contact information? Cut out and keep this list:
• Medicare – 1-800-633-4227 or Medicare.gov
• Area Agency On Aging, which deals with benefits – 1-800-252-9240
• Federal trade commission, for identity theft – 1-877-438-4338 or FTC.gov
• Free annual credit report – 1-877-322-8228 or annualcreditreport.com
• Legal Hotline For Older Texans – 1-800-622-2520
• Texas insurance department, for ratings andcomplaints about insurance companies – 1-800-578-4677
• Federal securities and exchange commission, for a “senior care” package – 1-800-732-0330 or sec.gov
• Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – consumerfinance.gov/blog/spotlight-on-scams-that-target-older-adults/
• Senate aging committee – aging.senate.gov
There’s also a podcast, Consumer Fraud In The Health Insurance Marketplace, about how seniors can protect themselves from ID theft at oig.hhs.gov/newsroom/podcasts/index.asp.
TSMP also offers a guide, Protect, Detect, Report, to help when dealing with healthcare issues.
A number to ponder is that between three per cent and 10 per cent of all healthcare expenditures are considered fraudulent. That translates to between $60 billion and $90 billion – yes, billion –yearly! Think how much lower our senior healthcare costs would be if that amount were eliminated!
Remember: Think, plan and execute crime-prevention design. Don’t be a crime victim.
Walt Candelari is a crime-prevention specialist and community-policing officer with Dickinson police department.