As November quickly approaches, seniors will once again be eligible for enrollment in government-subsidized prescription insurance. For those on Medicare, it’s a difficult decision made even more complicated by scam artists looking to take candy from the purses of the elderly. Phony phone calls, mailed letters and even emails asking for credit card numbers are just a few of the con tactics.
At a New England educational gathering, one senior citizen reported having her credit card number stolen from a telemarketer claiming to be an employee of a company offering Medicare Part D benefits. Another reported a fake door-to-door salesman asking for personal checks.
Senior citizens are being cautioned to avoid financial risk by taking the following precautions:
• Don’t give a telemarketer or salesman your credit card, bank account or social security numbers.
• Don’t sign any document you don’t understand.
• Don’t cash checks from strange companies.
One of the increasingly common Medicare scams is sending senior citizens checks for a small amount of money. The small print on these checks states that cashing the check grants permission for automatic enrollment in their program for an exorbitant monthly fee. The print on these checks is so tiny that even someone with perfect eye sight couldn’t read the type without a magnifying glass.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), seniors are victims of consumer fraud more often than any other age group. Senior citizens and those whose family members are eligible for Part D Medicare should take extra precaution to guard themselves and their loved ones against these scams.
The Indiana Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against the owners of Buzz Telecom, which also operated as Business Options, after receiving over 50 complaints that the telephone company switched customers’ phone companies without their consent and charged them a fee to do it (a process known as “telephone slamming”). When customers contacted Buzz Telecom to complain, the company refused to reverse the unauthorized charges.
Unfortunately, it’s become common practice for telephone slammers to attempt to convince customers that what they’re doing is perfectly legal. Meanwhile, the customer is slapped with a hefty “change of carrier” charge. In a service industry where customers feel forced to either pay up or go without, many people (especially elderly folks) aren’t fighting the charges.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a customer’s telephone service cannot legally be switched from an existing telephone company to a new company unless the new company verifies the switch by one of the following methods:
1) Obtains customer’s signature of consent.
2) Receives oral customer authorization via an independent third party.
3) Provides customer with a toll free number to confirm the switch.
Customers who have been slammed by any telephone company may contact the offending company and refuse payment. Then inform the original/preferred phone company of the slam practice and request to be reinstated with their original calling plan. Specifically request that all “change of carrier charges” (the charge to switch phone companies) be waived. If all else fails, contacting the appropriate State Attorney General couldn’t hurt.