From the snake oil salesmen of the wild west to George C. Parker’s infamous “sale” of the Brooklyn Bridge, scams have been around for centuries. Many people are familiar with the over-the-top legends of notorious con men, but modern technology has created modern fraud. With the advent of cell phones and the internet, scammers can access a host of new platforms. That means the signs many people have learned to distrust will no longer apply. This leaves many otherwise savvy people lacking the tools they need to recognize and avoid a life-altering scam.
Perpetrators of fraud rely on exploiting vulnerable people, and seniors are a frequent target. Every year older Americans lose billions of dollars to scams, and only one in 44 of these cases is ever even reported. Medicare scams are among the top ten types of fraud that seniors face. Furthermore, the fact that they’re associated with a trusted organization makes them especially insidious.
Seniors Can be More Vulnerable to Fraud
Scientists still struggle to understand why older people become more vulnerable to scams even with no measurable brain changes. The phenomenon, known as age-associated financial vulnerability, means that seniors may be less likely to recognize the signs of fraud and act to protect themselves. In many cases, this vulnerability appears in people who are otherwise neurophysiologically normal, without signs of Alzheimer’s or other conditions which might impact their cognition.
Other risk factors may make a person vulnerable to scams. Because many seniors are isolated, they have fewer friends or loved ones nearby to see the warning signs of predation. Emotional vulnerability is a factor as well. Seniors who suffer from the loss of loved ones or a reduction in mobility may be at risk for higher rates of anxiety and depression. All of these factors create an emotional state that scammers can use as leverage.
How to Spot a Medicare Scam
As skilled as many scammers are at avoiding detection, there are some simple signs to watch for. In most Medicare scams, a person tries to obtain your Medicare information and start billing them for made-up healthcare services. Medicare recommends spotting fraud by checking your Medicare Summary Notes frequently and reporting any items you don’t recognize. Watch out for any bills for hospitals you don’t recognize or providers you don’t know. Of course, at that point the scammer has already struck; ideally, you can avoid being the victim of fraud in the first place.
Don’t Trust Phone Calls
Generally, most scammers are after your personal information so they can use it to access your money or services. Medicare scams are so effective because they come from an organization that seniors trust and rely on. If you ever receive a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare, don’t take it at face value. Medicare will always reach out to you by letter to schedule a phone interview; they will never call you unsolicited. Medicare will also never ask for your banking or credit card information.
Other Tips to Consider
Aside from any unsolicited call from “Medicare” being suspect, there are a few other warning signs to keep an eye out for. If a caller from Medicare asks you to confirm, activate, or renew your Medicare card by giving them your number, it’s a scam. You will never need to activate or renew your Medicare card. Any call offering a Medicare refund or extra free services is also almost certainly a case of fraud. Lastly, if a caller claims that you need to take action or else your Medicare will be canceled, don’t give it any credence. These scams prey on the panic a person feels at the thought of losing an essential service, and Medicare will never operate in that way.
Play It Safe When Dealing With Fraud
At the end of the day, if you suspect that you might be in contact with a scammer, the smart thing to do is to disengage and hang up. You can always call Medicare directly to get more information and feel confident that you’re talking to a legitimate source. If you believe you may have encountered a Medicare scam, you can report it by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
Even when seniors know what signs to look out for, it’s still sadly easy to fall victim to fraud. Scammers are often persuasive and are not afraid to use intimidation to get people to do what they want. For seniors living in isolation without anyone to turn to for help, it can be difficult to identify fraud before it’s too late.
An in-home caregiver can provide an extra layer of protection for vulnerable seniors. Having another person on hand to take note of worrying behavior or ask for guidance in cases with a potential scam can make all the difference. With another person in the house to stave off the adverse effects of loneliness, seniors can better resist scammers attempting to prey on the isolated and vulnerable. An in-home caregiver is an advocate and an ally, providing many essential services to seniors who want to stay at the helm of their lives without the risk of running aground.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.