Letter, Opinion

Beware of scammers

Dear editor,

Scammers are getting even more imaginative in their attempts to separate you from your money. One technique they use – successfully – is to pretend they are a legitimate business or service soliciting information from you so you can get something you want or think you need… or give you false protection you don’t need!

The other day I got a piece of mail in a window envelope printed “Second Notice” in red, and “Important Document Enclosed” in black. I thought, what could this be? I opened it.

Inside was an item announcing “Medicare Savings Program for Vermont residents.” It offered to see if the recipient might qualify for “the state” to reimburse Social Security Part B premiums, and also if you might qualify for Extra Help with “prescription drugs from Social Security.”

It went on: “Do you qualify for Medicaid or have you been receiving all the extra benefits such as Dental, Hearing, Transportation and FREE over the counter Health Products?”

I was to fill out a brief form with my name, home address, phone number, age and spouse’s name and age if any.

Pretty tempting, right? Extra Help exists. The Part B premium collected by Social Security may be reduced (not reimbursed) if your income drops significantly due to a “life-changing event,” says the American Association of Retired Persons, a legitimate, nonprofit advocacy organization for seniors (AARP). But the application must be made on the appropriate Social Security form, and an appointment with a Social Security worker can always be made.

So the red flags began waving frantically. I began to dissect the mailing.

The biggest one was, no organization, agency or program was mentioned. I asked myself: Who or what was going to do what with the information I would supply?

So I looked again at the return address and also the return envelope inside the mailing. The only information was: “Distribution Processing Center,” and a P.O. box in Marietta, Georgia. But what did a distribution processing center have to do with qualifying people for this savings program?

Wait a minute. In other words, a call center.

Second, anyone on Medicare or Medicaid already knows the benefits available and how to qualify for them.

Third, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is a federal agency with its own legitimate website, cms.gov. And Medicare, Medicaid, Insure Kids Now, Health & Human Services, and HealthCare.gov (the insurance marketplace) have their own websites. Anything from them will clearly identify them and their contact information.

Finally, the fine print (easy to overlook if you hate the fine print) reads: “Not affiliated with or endorsed by any State or Federal government or Medicare program.” At least they are that honest.

Put this together with the fact that TV viewers have been bombarded with splashy saturation ads claiming all kinds of special offers now as the December 6 deadline to change your insurance loomed.

The above applies to the latest scamming attempt, received on Outlook today: billed as “Re: access to free housing assistance plan details – Rend and/or buy…”

OK, first of all, check the source. It is from the .uk, that is the United Kingdom – doesn’t apply to the U.S. Second, the word “Rend” should be “Rent” – enough said.

If you aren’t skeptical, you should be! Doublecheck the source.

Julia Purdy

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