By Rick Banas of assisted living provider BMA Management, Ltd.
Here is some great advice for older adults from Ella York of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Ella serves as Community Outreach Liaison in the Attorney General’s Carbondale office. She spoke recently at the Heritage Woods affordable assisted living community that BMA manages in Benton, Illinois, about what older adults can do to protect their hard earned dollars from fraud and scams.
Never Give Out Personal Information
to Someone Who Has Called You
Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call and you know the person with whom you are speaking.
If someone calls you and starts asking you for personal information, the best thing you can do is hang up on them. This is true if you have caller ID because you cannot trust the number that shows up on caller ID. Scammers have learned how to fake the telephone number that will show up. This is true if the caller claims to be from your bank, saying that there is a problem with your account. This is true even if the caller claims to be from Medicare or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Nobody from Medicare should be calling you and either asking you for or looking to verify personal information. The FBI certainly does not need to call you to get personal information.
Be Very Protective of Your Social Security Number
Do not carry your Social Security Card or your Medicare Card with you. Your Medicare number is your Social Security Number. If you want something to carry with you to show health care providers, make a photo copy of your Medicare card and black out the last four digits of your Medicare number. Doctors should accept it. If you are visiting a doctor or other health care provider for the first time, you may want to take your Medicare card with you. After the visit, be sure to take it out of your purse, wallet or pocket and return it to a safe place.
Regularly Check Your Credit Card and
Medicare Statements and Your Credit Reports
Review your credit card statements, even if you have not used your credit card, to be certain that there are no unauthorized charges on your account. Likewise, be sure to check your Medicare statements to be certain there are no unauthorized charges, especially for medical procedures such as hip and knee replacements and for medical equipment such as wheelchair and scooters. If you see unauthorized charges, you need to immediately notify Medicare. Do not assume that because Medicare is paying that it is Medicare’s problem. If sometime down the road you need a wheelchair, scooter or a right hip replacement and your Medicare statements indicate that you recently received one, Medicare is not likely to easily authorize the request.
Obtaining and reviewing your Credit Report also helps verify if you have been a victim of Identity Theft.
You want to verify that the personal information in Section 1 of the Credit Report is accurate. You want to review Section 2, which lists every single line of credit under your name and whether each line of credit is in good standing. This is the only way to see if someone has opened a new Credit Card account in your name without your authorization. You also want to be sure to review Section 3, which lists any Public Records such as Court Judgments or Liens that have been placed against you. In the last section of your credit report, you’ll find a list of everyone who has asked to see your credit report.
If there is a mistake or something on your Credit Report that should not be there, call up the credit reporting agency and let them know. If you believe that you have been or might be a victim of Identity Theft, call the ID Theft Hotline in addition to the credit reporting agency. You can call 1-866-999-5630, TTY 1-877-844-5461, in Espanol 1-866-310-8398.
Free credit reports are available to you from the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA). You are entitled to one free report from each agency each year so you can stagger when you obtain the reports. For instance, you can obtain a report from a different CRA every four months.
To request your free credit report, Ella recommends going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Don’t confuse this website with the free credit report.com website, she said, because the www.freecreditreport.com website will charge you for the report.
For more information about services available to older adults, visit http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/seniors/index.html
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.
“BMA Management is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”