Mississippi officials urge seniors to protect themselves against Medicare scams

TUPELO • Seniors are favorite targets for all kinds of scams, but they may not realize how much their Medicare benefits are under assault.

Seniors worked hard to earn their Medicare benefits, and they need to protect them to protect their own pocketbooks and preserve the program for future generations, said Ken Patterson, a Tupelo volunteer with Senior Medicare Patrol.

“Once they have your information, they can sell it,” said Patterson, who along with other trained volunteers, talks to civic, church and senior groups about how to protect their Medicare benefits. “It’s like having a credit card with no cap.”

Medicare fraud adds up to about $60 billion a year.

“Our mission is to empower seniors and prevent health care fraud,” said Keith Havins, community outreach specialist with the Senior Medicare Patrol program. “There’s always different scams going on.”

The identifying number used by Medicare is no longer your Social Security number, but it still should be guarded carefully. Seniors who get calls asking for their Medicare number to verify who they are should just hang up.

“We see that constantly,” Havins said. “Never give out the number over the phone to someone you haven’t called. No one from the IRS, Social Security or Medicare is going to call you to verify who you are.”

The best remedy is to just hang up; don’t worry about being rude, Patterson said.

“If you get a call from an unfamiliar company that you didn’t call first, just hang up,” Patterson said. “If you stay on the line, they know they have a live fish.”

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