Your older investors are sure it will never happen to them but Medicare fraud can trick anyone. Even those without a hint of cognitive decline can get taken by scammers. At AgingInvestor.com, we educate advisors about protecting clients from elder financial abuse and we thought we had our own family covered. With a 94 year old mother, we are especially alert. We were stunned when mom told us that someone “from Medicare” had called and asked her to “verify” her personal information.
Alice is a sharp 94 year old, living mostly independently in a seniors’ complex. She’s active, does her own shopping and is engaged with her neighbors in the community. She had an issue with Medicare not paying a bill for a service she had received some months prior. With our help, she had undertaken an appeal process, which involves a lot of repetitive paperwork. When a man saying he was from Medicare called, she thought it was about the appeal. Of course it wasn’t. The scammer asked her to “verify” her Social Security number, her address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name and she gave him that information.
A few hours later, she mentioned what had happened and said she had been wondering if it was right to give out that information. We were shocked! How is it that she didn’t see the potential ID thief when we talk about this all the time? We knew we had to jump on this right away to stop the thieves from using the information to open new accounts in her name. Hours were spent the next day calling the two banks where she had accounts, her credit card company, the credit reporting agencies and Social Security. We had to stop the auto debits on her bill payments. We cleaned up the mess.
So far so good. No unauthorized transactions have happened. Her old accounts were closed and new ones opened. Social Security sends her payments to the new account. Fraud alerts are on everything now. Whew! This was a lesson that even the alert older person can get fooled with the right pitch on the phone.
Here’s the takeaway.
Warn your clients: Medicare will NEVER call and ask you for your personal information. Never give it out unless you place a call to order something that you know is legitimate.
Medicare fraud can happen in many forms. This was just one of them. I believe that there was probably a connection between her Medicare appeal and the fraud attempt. It’s too much of a coincidence that they called when she had communication with Medicare going on already with her appeal. The appeal had not yet been resolved. This information got into the wrong hands, making it easy to trick a sharp person by saying he was calling from Medicare. Mom could be just like any one of your older clients.
Why is this important? You’re on the front lines and you have a trusting relationship with clients. Speak up and make basic efforts to educate them about these scams. A lot of money can be drained from an account instantly with all the client’s personal information out there. Make yourself look good. A word from you can remind your aging clients that you care about their financial safety and that you are looking out for them.
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