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Consumer Protection TipsPosted Tuesday, March 30, 2010, at 2:14 PM
I received the following information from a friend of mine who is the coordinator of the
The Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Program, funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging, The SMP educates and empowers seniors to prevent, identify and report health care fraud and abuse. If you're an older American or the family member, caregiver or friend of one, the SMP can help. Contact the Missouri SMP at 888-515-6565 for more information if you think you've been scammed or to volunteer to prevent others from being scammed.
There's a new scam every day. A "census worker" needs your Social Security number to verify your identity. A "charity" needs your bank account number to provide health care to Haitian children. An e-mail needs you to click on a link for a "free" trial offer. Here are some general tips to avoid scams:
1. Don't give out your Social Security, Medicare and bank account numbers over the telephone. They can be used against you. So can information such as the names of your children or grandchildren.
2. Beware of callers who say they're from an organization such as Medicare and they need to know your Medicare number. If they truly were from Medicare, they wouldn't need to ask. Nor would they call or visit your home unless you called them first.
3. Never purchase items online from a website that you've found from an e-mail link. It could be a fraudulent site. If you know the name of an organization you want to do business with, go the website on your own. Only buy from secure websites -- those with "https" as part of their web addresses.
4. If a charity calls wanting a donation and you'd like to donate, hang up, look up the name of the charity and call yourself. The caller might not have been from the organization at all, or might have been a middleman who funnels little of the donation to the charity.
Another scam that is making its rounds is the "Grandparent Scam" where someone calls Grandma or Grandpa and says something like this: "Grandma, I'm in trouble, my car broke down and I can't come home till I get it fixed. Can you please send me some money to get my car fixed so I can come home?" Of course you want to help your grandchild, unfortunately the person you send the money MAY NOT BE YOUR GRANDCHILD It may be a scam. Please check facts with other family members before you send money to anyone.
Everyday there are crooks thinking up ways to separate you from your hard-earned money. Please be careful out there.
If helping make people aware of these scams and trying to help "fix the problem" is something near and dear to your heart you can help by becoming a volunteer for the SMP. Contact me at 1-800-392-8771 to see about training.
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Ruth Dockins is the Public Information Director for the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging and author of 'Age Spots,' a column/blog which is featured in several Southeast Missouri newspapers and is devoted to seniors and senior lifestyles.
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