March is Fraud Prevention Month, and the Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) wants to remind you of some ways you can protect yourself against the many scams targeting older adults.

First and foremost, guard your information. This includes dates of birth, Social Security, Medicare card, bank account, and credit card numbers. If you are on Facebook, avoid the temptation to share answers (favorite colors, foods, pet and children’s names, dates, etc.). Those could also be answers to online security questions. These quizzes seem harmless, but they are not.

Guarding your information may seem more difficult when someone phones your home, sounds official, and speaks to you in a persuasive or threatening manner. Don’t be fooled. When someone calls your home asking for any of this information, don’t give it to the caller.

Medicare will not call you and ask you for your information. Medicare already has your information. The Internal Revenue Service will not call or email you to try to collect back taxes. The IRS handles official business via mail. The local sheriff’s department will not call you and give you one last chance to pay up before they serve a warrant and take you to jail. Your bank will not phone you and ask you for information about your accounts. It’s OK to hang up and call the bank, IRS, Medicare, or sheriff’s department if you are uncertain about a call you receive. Call a publicly available number for the agency – not a number a caller gives you.

If you’d like a list of phone numbers and websites that can help you find more of these tips, give us a call and we will mail you one for free. As always, if you suspect you are the victim of Medicare fraud or abuse, call the Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol at (888) 515-6565.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90MPPG0040, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.

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