How to Spot a Telephone Scam
Aging Matters

From Medicare open enrollment to end of the year taxes to the holidays, it's the time when imposters crawl out of the woodwork. Medicare health insurance is difficult enough to understand, now seniors have to deal with scammers selling fake plans. And what about the IRS scams? That's up next. But first, pay close attention websites selling children toys and other goods at jacked up prices. Only shop at online stores you trust.

If a telemarketer calls you asking questions about your Medicare insurance plan and the inquiry confuses you or it doesn't make sense, just hang up and call your health insurance plan's customer service department or your agent. You don't have to put up with nonsense from a telemarketer. Watch out for these scams:

  • In an attempt to get your Medicare number, a scammer claims you're entitled to money back because of "changes" or "enhancements" by Medicare or a private insurer. The goal is to get the Medicare number, your bank account information for a supposed direct deposit.
  • In an effort to get personal information, crooks claim to be from a state or local health agency, doctor's offices or hospitals, or an official-sounding but phony organization.
  • A scammer wants your credit card number, so they offer free medical supplies or a health checkup. The caller may know about your medical condition. Or they invite you to get a complimentary checkup.

Thousands of seniors have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Imposters and scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not start contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Other ways to recognize the signs of an IRS scam.

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS will first mail a bill to a taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.
  • If you owe taxes: The IRS instructs taxpayers to make payments to the "United States Treasury."

While you're scouring the Web for holiday deals, scammers work hard to steal your data and hard-earned cash. The top online scams:

Gift cards, gift card exchanges, counterfeit name-brand goods, email holiday card, websites offering coupon and promotional discount codes, and the buy one online and pick up a second one for free in the store.

Be alert and don't fall for a scam. I'd rather hang up on a legitimate caller than talk with a scammer.

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Carol Marak, aging advocate, She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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