where you can get quick tips on how to prevent Medicare scams.
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Caution! Signing Up for Drawings and Prizes
There may be statements in small print or on the reverse of sign-up slips for drawings that grant salespeople permission to contact you by phone, mail, personal visit or e-mail. These may be sales calls you do not want to receive.
The fact that you signed up for the FTC Do-Not-Call-Registry will not protect you from businesses calling you to sell products, if you signed one of these entry slips that contains a statement giving them permission to contact you.
Carefully read the front and back of any contest or prize drawing entry that you sign. You’ll find these at fairs, shopping malls, sports shows and even your favorite store.
Iowa SMP wants to remind you of the ways in which you can help prevent Medicare fraud. The “Washington Post” recently reported that health care fraud has grown to be a $60 billion problem --- every year! Medicare has implemented many new procedures to detect and reduce losses to fraud. But YOU are at the grassroots level and can do a lot to help save money for yourself and all taxpayers. Here are some tips:
• Protect your Medicare number just as you do your checkbook and credit cards. Only give it to your doctor and other health care providers. Be careful about someone offering a “free” Medicare service in exchange for your Medicare number.
• Protect your medical records; only let your doctors and health care providers see them.
• It if sounds too good to be true, it probably is!!!! Learn more about what is covered by Medicare. If a health care provider tells you Medicare will cover dance classes for wellness, you’ll know it’s a scam! Read your “Medicare and You” handbook that is mailed to you each fall.
• Read your Medicare Summary Notice and your benefit statements from your Prescription Drug Plan. Be sure you received all the services listed, on the dates listed and that the amount looks correct. If there are problems, try to resolve it with your doctor or providers. If you need assistance, call SMP at 1-800-423-2449.
**June 3, 2008 Warning” Iowa Disaster Victims in Black Hawk, Buchanan, Butler and Delaware Counties:
Protecting Your Personal Information and Financial Security---------------------------
• If you need to replace a missing Social Security card, contact your Social Security Administration office. It is helpful to call the office before your visit, to be advised of the identification required. There is NO CHARGE for a replacement card; don’t pay money to any person or business offering to get a replacement card for you. --------
• If you need to replace a missing Medicare health insurance card, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM. You aren’t required to submit identification if you call and verify your identity verbally. --------------------
• If you need to replace a missing Medicaid (Title 19) or food assistance card, call your county Department of Human Services office. ---------------------
• If you are concerned that your Social Security number and other personal information might have gotten into the wrong hands, request free copies of your credit report. Each of the 3 credit companies must give you an annual free report if you request it. Request a report from 1 company, 4 months later request from another and 4 months later from the third.
o Equifax, 1-800-685-1111, www.equifax.com
o Experian, 1-888-397-3742, www.experian.com
o TransUnion, 1-877-322-8228, www.transunion.com
If you find credit transactions you didn’t authorize, contact the credit company, the businesses listed on your report, all your other banks and credit issuers, and your local police department. --------------------
• If you are concerned that your Medicare claim number is being used by someone else, read your Medicare Summary Notice that is mailed every 3 months. If there are benefits paid to providers that haven’t given you health care, call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227. If you have difficulty resolving the problem, call Iowa SMP program at 1-800-423-2449. ------------------------
• If you cannot receive mail at your usual mailing address, contact your local Post Office to ask what arrangements have been made and whether you need to have your mail forwarded to a different address; if so, choose a trusted person who can receive your forwarded mail. Ask the Post Office for a reminder list of who you should notify. ----------------------------
• Consider signing up for direct deposit for your retirement benefits now. Call the agencies that send your benefits, to give them your bank routing number and account number. ----------------------------
Home Repair Scams ------------------------------
FEMA and the Iowa Attorney General’s office warn that persons recovering from disaster are targets of scam artists for home repair and clean up services. If you don’t know the person offering to perform services , you should:
• Check local references, ask for proof of registration with the Iowa Labor Services division, ask the Iowa Attorney General’s office if complaints have been filed.
• Get several written estimates. When you decide to hire the contractor get a detailed written contract.
• Avoid paying large sums in advance. If you have to pay for materials in advance, make your check payable to the contractor AND the supplier.
• Don’t be a victim of price gouging, which is prohibited by state law in counties with declared disasters.
You can contact the Iowa Labor Services Division at 1-800-562-4692 & the IA Attorney General Consumer Protection Division at 1-888-777-4590. Read the consumer advisories section of the Attorney General website at http://www.iowaattorneygeneral.org. ---------------------------
Be Careful of Telemarketers and Door-to-Door Salespersons--------------------------------
• Scam artists move quickly into and out of the area and know how to target vulnerable people. If someone calls, ask:
o Who’s calling and why?
o What’s their hurry?
o Why am I giving out my bank information or even confirming it?
In fact, DON’T give out your Social Security number, bank numbers or other personal information unless you place the call yourself to conduct some business with a trusted organization.
• Door-to-door salespeople can be very pushy and make you believe you’ll miss out on some services or products you need desperately.
The Iowa Door-to-Door Sales Act requires salespeople to tell you there are 3 days allowed to change your mind or cancel if you are buying a product or service worth more than $25. Always ask the person to show their sales permit, which is required by most towns and cities; check with the city clerk or police department. -------------------
Don’t Fall for Donation Scams-------------------
• Initiate the call yourself, to charities you know and trust.
• If someone calls, stating they are from a charity you know, ask them to send you written information before you send money. On May 28, 2008, Waterloo news media reported that bogus calls have been made in the area, from persons portraying themselves as from the American Red Cross. Be especially careful of callers saying they are from your fire or police department; call your fire or police department to make sure it’s a legitimate fundraiser before you donate. -----------------------
This information has been compiled with resources from:
• Iowa Office of the Attorney General
• Iowa Department of Human Services
• Federal Trade Commission
• Social Security Administration
----------------------If you are working with FEMA, they will provide you much more additional information. If they visit or call they will identify themselves AND have your personal registration number, given to you when you registered for services.
DON’T THROW YOUR IDENTITY OR YOUR PILLS IN THE TRASH! May 12, 2008
Most of us don’t escape the need to take prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, so you likely have some pill bottles from your pharmacy and OTC containers in your medicine cabinet, on your night stand or the kitchen counter. What do you do when you’ve finished the medicine or you find an expired one that needs to be discarded? Throw the bottle in the trash, right? Stop! Give it a second thought!
If that bottle is from your pharmacy, it has a label with personal information on it. You probably haven’t looked at it lately, but check it out --- see your full name, your doctor’s name, a prescription number and the name of your pharmacy. If some “dumpster diver” goes through the trash that comes from your home, they’ve got a good start on pieces of information to steal your identity. Before you throw it in the garbage or recycling container, try to peel off the label and cut it or shred it, or if you can’t remove it, use a permanent marker to black out the information.
So, now you are safer because you didn’t throw your identity into the trash, but why are we worried about your pills going into the trash? For years we’ve been told to flush our unused or expired medicine down the toilet to protect our children and pets from accidentally ingesting them. The new environmental concern is for drug waste and by-products that can’t always be successfully removed by wastewater treatment facilities and septic systems. Scientists are studying the long-term effects of drug waste in waterways that harms fish, wildlife and our natural habitat. Of special concern are hormones.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, American Pharmacists Association, and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America have joined forces for their “Smarxt Disposal” (trademark) campaign. These groups have specific advice on handling unused or expired drugs.
• Don’t flush due to groundwater concerns.
• Don’t place in trash because children, pets, or wild scavenging animals may eat the drugs.
• Crush solid pills – tablets or capsules – add water, then add absorbent material like coffee grounds, kitty litter or sawdust. Seal in a plastic bag and place in trash.
• Dissolve liquid or spray medications in some water, add absorbent material (as just mentioned). Seal in a plastic bag and place in trash.
• Ask your pharmacist for advice and whether the pharmacy has a “take back” program to dispose of the drugs for you.
Iowa SMP talked with 2 pharmacists, one affiliated with a large chain drug store and one independent business owner, and they both agreed with this advice. You can always ask your pharmacist, if your drug store has a disposal program.
For more information visit www.smarxtdisposal.net
May 12, 2008 Opt Out of Unwanted Marketing E-mail -- The SMP office has discovered an option available for limiting unwanted e-mail. The Direct Marketing Association offers an opportunity to register a “preference” to opt out. Marketing businesses who choose to access these registrations, will remove your e-mail address(es) from their contact lists. Your registration does not protect you from e-mails from the following:
• Organizations you’ve done business with,
• Charitable organizations
• Political organizations
• Professional organizations.
The link is http://www.dmachoice.org/EMPS/
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