It seems like every few years, there are changes to Medicare and Medicaid. Reformers claim that the new system will be better for participants, but the only sure thing to come from new programs or changes is confusion through the transition. Not surprisingly, con men often try to take advantage of that confusion to line their pockets. How can you avoid them? What should you warn older friends and family to watch out for?
1. What kinds of scams are popping up because of the changes to government health care programs?
There are all kinds of opportunities for con men to exploit the news. Nationwide, BBBs have seen a rise in questionable telemarketing. It can start with something as simple as calling a list of seniors, identifying yourself as being attached to a government survey office, and asking questions about an individual's plans for the program. In the course of the survey, a con man can begin slipping questions in that have nothing to do with Medicare, like Social Security Numbers or other personal data.
2. Other than identity theft, what other scams are associated with the switch?
There are plenty of legitimate health care supplement plans and solid insurance programs to help close the gaps that sometimes appear in Medicare. A lot of policies will mimic legitimate plans -- even ape the names of well-recognized businesses or appear official in some way -- but contain some exclusion that keep the company from ever paying out. In this case, the devil is in the details and the fine print. You need to read and understand the policy to know if it's really of any use to you.
3. Where do the con men come up with these ideas?
Very simply, con men watch the news just like we do. They know what's on people's minds, and in some cases -- like when the elderly are involved -- they see a chance for easy pickins. That shouldn't be the case, and it's just as wrong to assume that older folks are going to somehow be confused or more easily taken in by a scam as it is to think that it's okay to take advantage of seniors who might fall prey to this kind of con job. These con men are vultures, plain and simple, and you need to watch out for them.