Identity thieves impersonate Medicare employees to target Texas seniors
(Press release by Attorney General of Texas)
State authorities are warning senior citizens to be wary of identity thieves who are posing as Medicare officials in an attempt to steal seniors’ sensitive personal information.
According to recent complaints received by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, identity thieves are calling Texas seniors at home and claiming to be affiliated with the federal Medicare program. The callers falsely tell seniors that the Medicare program’s current identification cards – which are well known for the red, white and blue stripes across the top – are being phased out and that replacement Medicare cards must be obtained in order to continue receiving benefits.
The callers’ plan to steal the identities of their victims soon becomes clear when seniors are told they must confirm their Medicare number and bank account information over the phone in order to receive a replacement card. Since a senior’s Medicare number is identical to his or her Social Security number, the caller’s request to “confirm” a Medicare number is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to steal the unsuspecting senior’s sensitive personal information.
Fortunately, a few wary senior Texans immediately questioned the callers’ requests. But increasingly savvy identity thieves are prepared and attempt to create the false impression that they already have the senior’s personal information. As proof, the callers often repeat some of the call recipient’s personal information such as name, address and telephone number. But because this information is easy to obtain, the caller’s verification effort is actually just a devious ruse that attempts to mimic the practices of legitimate enterprises – like a bank or insurance company – in an effort to steal the call recipient’s Social Security and bank account number.
The best way to avoid any version of this telephone identity theft scam is to keep in mind that major federal agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and Medicare program never call Americans offering to provide services. These agencies communicate by U.S. mail – and never have their employees randomly call to confirm anyone’s personal information.
So to avoid being scammed, follow this rule: Never provide personal information to any unsolicited telephone callers. And when in doubt, just hang up the phone.
Here are some additional tips from identitytheftnetwork.org:
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
- If your Medicare card has your Social Security number listed on it, make a photocopy of your Medicare card and use a permanent marker to black out you’re the first five digits of your Social Security number on the photocopy of the card. Carry the photocopy of the card and keep your Medicare card in a secure place.
- Do not carry your checkbook. Only carry the number of checks you will need and keep your checkbook in a secure place.
- Keep all of your sensitive personal documents, including financial documents in a safe, secure, locked place.
- Shred personal and financial records with a crosscut shredder before throwing them away.
- Be mindful while using the internet. Install a virus-protection on your computer. Only visit trusted websites and do not respond to unsolicited requests for information.
- Register for the National Do Not Call List to prevent telemarketers from calling your home with unsolicited offers. Visit www.donotcall.gov to register or call 1-888-382-1222.
- To stop unsolicited credit or insurance offers, contact 1-888-567-8688 or visit : www.optoutprescreen.com.
- A Senior’s Power of Attorney or Court Appointed-Guardian is able to exercise rights on behalf of the Senior in order to clean up damage cause by identity theft.
- Monitor and review your credit report annually. If you believe you have been a victim consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report.
- Contact the three credit bureaus for more information.