By Steve Abel – President-BBB | June 1, 2013

The Better Business Bureau is alerting elderly and disabled residents to beware of unsolicited phone calls from unscrupulous people looking to obtain Medicare or Medicaid information. In the last few weeks, the BBB has received numerous phone calls from residents reporting they received phone calls, supposedly from federal agencies, medic alert businesses or medical supply companies working with the government. These people are asking for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers in order to provide free services such as medic alert alarms, back braces, and other products that assist the elderly and infirm and are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. {{more}} Elderly consumers may be given any number of excuses to provide this information. Reasons used to further the scam include: • The resident is part of a corporate or government survey • They are eligible to receive free products if they give the information • They must provide the information to sign up for a new prescription drug plan. • Residents are eligible for a free medic alert service if they provide the information. Some scammers also claim that they are from the government and are calling to update information or confirming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers in order to issue a new card. Callers are obtaining the phone numbers of local seniors from marketing lists, phone directories and the internet in order to place the calls with the assumption that elderly residents will be in need of these services. If the scammers obtain banking, Medicare/Medicaid or Social Security information, they could use it to commit identity theft and steal funds from accounts. Some also call from “spoofed” phone numbers, meaning the real numbers are disguised on phones equipped with caller ID so the numbers can’t be traced. These scammers can be very aggressive, often calling many times and at all hours of the day to wear down potential victims and can be very convincing. The BBB recommends the following tips to avoid this scam: • Never give out their personal information over the phone, especially if it is from an unsolicited caller. If consumers receive a suspicious phone call, they should hang up immediately. • Remind elderly family members that Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information. If you suspect fraud contact your local police or the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General at 800-HHS-TIPS. • Don’t do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that medical services or equipment are free. Medicare, Medicaid and the Social Security Administration will not call you to update information or issue a new card. • Give your insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services. • Keep accurate records of all health care appointments to prevent fraud involving Medicare/Medicaid information provided to doctors or caregivers. The BBB works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please contact the BBB at or 691-1533 for information on businesses throughout North America.