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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Scammers target the elderly

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  • If you receive an email that appears to be from the U.S. Postal Service about a package delivery or online postage charges, don't open it.
    It's a scam designed to entice people to click on a link or attachment that will steal personal information from your computer.
    Newton Postmaster Robin Gay said multiple customers in town already have been targeted by this scam, and unfortunately, it's only one of many scams that regularly come through the area. Whether it's a dishonest salesperson or a fraudulent "victim" seeking financial assistance, scammers make themselves sound legitimate and often target more vulnerable members of the community, such as the elderly.
    Rich Hanley has heard of many types of scams through his work at the Harvey County Department on Aging. The scammers use a variety of methods, including email, regular mail, phone and in person. A scammer may call pretending to be a grandson or granddaughter who has gotten into trouble in a foreign country and needs money to be wired to them right away. A salesperson may try to offer unsolicited products or services, such as insurance, lawn care or home repair.
    Health-care fraud is one of the most common scams. An estimated $1 out of every $10 spent on Medicare and Medicaid is lost to fraud, adding up to about $10 billion a year in health-care fraud costs.
    Wenda Black, also with the Department on Aging, said scammers are taking advantage of the complexity and confusion surrounding new national health-care reform and are trying to convince Medicare recipients to give out personal information. Black said the Affordable Care Act doesn't tie into Medicare, and it's extremely unlikely a Medicare worker would come to your door.
    Hanley said one of the best ways to protect yourself from fraud is to keep good records and watch what information you give out. Look over Medicare summary notices and make sure all charges are accurate and are for services you actually used.
    "Keep track of everybody you talk to, and never show anyone — other than your doctor or your pharmacist — your medical or your prescription records," Hanley said.
    Other tips include:
    - Shred sensitive records and dispose of them safely and securely.
    - Don't buy products over the phone.
    - If you receive an unsolicited package from an unknown source, don't accept it.
    - Treat your Medicare and Social Security numbers like credit card numbers — don't give them out to anyone.
    - Get to know your neighbors and have them watch for anything suspicious at your house.
    - If you feel pressured by a tele-marketer or a door-to-door salesperson, hang up the phone or ask the salesperson to leave.
    Page 2 of 2 - - Don't answer the door if you aren't expecting guests and you don't know who's coming.
    Hanley also advised people to be wary of offers that seem to come with "no strings attached."
    "Any free offer is a red flag," he said. "... If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn't true."
    Although no one wants to appear unfriendly, Hanley said it's always better to act with caution.
    "The best advice for seniors is 'shrewd to be rude,'" he said. "Just hang up if you feel pressured. If you don't know who's at the door, don't answer it."
    For more information on seniors and fraud, visit www.kdads.ks.gov.
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