Helping seniors live healthier, happier, more well-informed lives is what United Way’s Area Agency on Aging (UWAAA) is all about. So combating the growing problems of Medicare scams, fraud and identity theft that take advantage of innocent seniors is one of our top priorities.
Healthcare fraud and scams cost both the Medicare program and its beneficiaries a pretty penny – to the tune of an estimated $60 billion in 2017 alone, according to the AARP. Medicare and the government work tirelessly to respond to the scams, but in the age of instant information, it can be hard for the average person to keep up with, or stay ahead of, criminals and their evolving tactics.
Knowledge Is Power
In this battle of wits, UWAAA has implemented a new national program in Jefferson County called Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). Through a growing force of outgoing local volunteers, SMP works to inform consumers about Medicare scams and deceptive business practices, and teach them how to identify scams so they can avoid becoming victims. Volunteers make presentations to various groups in the community, exhibit at events such as health fairs and personally assist Medicare beneficiaries in reviewing notices and information.
One of SMP’s top tips is to be aware of patterns in scams. For example, technology now gives callers the ability to change the phone number that displays on Caller ID when they place calls. This means that phone calls from half a world away can appear to come from your own neighborhood, or even government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or Medicare. One of the best ways to avoid scams is simply to not pick up the phone for numbers you don’t recognize. Callers with actual messages for you can leave voicemails – just don’t forget to check them!
Guard Your Card
There are also patterns to look for if you do pick up the phone. Many scammers promise free medical equipment or claim that urgent action is required to protect your benefits…but what they’re doing is trying to get you to give them your personal Medicare information. Remember that Medicare will never ask you for personal details or payment over the phone. Nor will they ask you to mail in any old cards. These scams get harder to spot every day, so if you’re suspicious of a call you receive, you can always hang up and call Medicare yourself at 1-800-MEDICARE.
By raising awareness about these scams, Senior Medicare Patrol is protecting Central Alabama’s aging population from the stress and financial hardship of fraud, so they can focus on what matters most: enjoying their golden years.
You Can Help
The success of the program depends on knowledgeable volunteers going out into the community to spread the word and educate the public. UWAAA is actively recruiting SMP volunteers, who receive free training, so if you’re interested in joining our efforts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 1-800-AGE-LINE (1-800-243-5463) or visit www.uwaaa.org/volunteer.