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Medicare card scam targets older people

Created date

August 21st, 2015
scam alert graphic
scam alert graphic

When you hear about a Medicare scam, it typically involves doctors or medical institutions. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently shut down a particularly rotten scam that was targeting older Americans.

The scammers contacted people by phone and falsely told consumers they needed their bank account numbers to verify their identities before sending them a new Medicare card. The scammers assured their victims that they would not withdraw money from their accounts. In fact, they took several hundred dollars from each consumer’s account and provided nothing in return. Some of the scammers even promised to provide consumers with an identity theft protection service. 

Automatic debit scam

This is just the latest example of what’s known as an automatic debit scam. Just as in this case, telemarketers contact you, offer you something—be it a new Medicare card, a prize, a new credit card, etc.—and proceed to inform you that to verify your identity or check your eligibility, they need your bank account information. They will ask you to get a check and read all of the numbers printed on the bottom. 

Even if they promise not to withdraw any money from your bank account, don’t believe them. Don’t assume that any random caller is who they say they are and NEVER give your bank account information to someone you don’t know. If in the course of a telemarketing call, someone asks to record the conversation, decline. They may be trying to trick you into agreeing to something that you don’t want or need. They will use the recording to prove that you want whatever they are offering. If they say you can change your mind at any time...don’t believe that either. Once they have your account number, cancelling will take a lot of time and effort.

Under no circumstances would someone from Medicare (or any other government agency) ever call and ask for your bank account information to verify your identity. 

So many scammers use the phone to do their dirty work; the sound of the telephone ringing should be your signal to put your guard up. Before you buy anything or give a caller any information over the phone, make sure you are speaking to a legitimate business. 

The FTC works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC online at or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). 

I have heard from many Tribune readers in recent months. These are honest, intelligent, hard-working people who have shared stories of scams they have been victimized by. It’s just too easy to get nabbed, and many of the scammers out there are good at falsely earning people’s trust. Protect yourself!