Age spots: Keeping safe from scams

An unfortunate fact is that older adults are often targets of door-to-door salespeople who might use unscrupulous and dishonest sales tactics to sell you something you do not need. These folks may be trying to sell a new roof after a storm, resurfacing on a driveway, a new or different Medicare plan, shoes for a diabetic, or screenings for a disease or genetic testing. They often apply high-pressure tactics and maximum charm to get you to agree to services before you have a chance to think the decision through.


When it comes to repairs and improvements do not feel pressured to make a quick decision and always take your time in making that decision. Get advice from relatives or friends before you sign anything. In addition, it is recommended that you shop around, get quotes, and use licensed and insured contractors. Do not be afraid to ask for credentials and never pay in advance. Do not give salespeople access to your bank account, that is not necessary and could lead to losing a lot of money.


When it comes to medical services, devices or insurance policies, door-to-door offers are not the recommended method of obtaining such services. Salespeople offering Medicare prescription drug coverage or Medicare Advantage plans are not allowed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to do cold calls door-to-door. Do not give a door-to-door salesperson your Medicare information, since they are not allowed to do Medicare business door-to-door, they don’t need it.


The Missouri SMP (Senior Medicare Patrol) helps seniors learn about Medicare Fraud, Waste and Abuse, one of their recommendations is to read the mail that you receive from Medicare. In doing so, you can help prevent Medicare fraud and abuse, which cost taxpayers an estimated $60 billion annually.


One of the best ways to detect potential abuse or fraud on your Medicare account is to read your Medicare Summary Notice, also known as a MSN. The MSN is a notice that beneficiaries of original Medicare receive in the mail quarterly for the services they have received for Medicare Part A and Part B-covered services. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan and/or Part D drug coverage, you will receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) with the same information from the plan you are enrolled in.


These documents show the services and supplies that doctors and providers have billed to Medicare (or the Advantage Plan) over the past three months. They also show you what Medicare or the plan paid, and what you may owe the provider. If you do not have services for the previous three months, you will not receive an MSN or EOB. You may use these important documents to compare your bills, receipts, and other medical records with what Medicare has received and help you detect potential errors, abuse or fraud.


If Medicare or the Advantage Plan has been billed for a service that you do not believe you received, then question it. Call the provider first to see if perhaps you did receive the service but had forgotten or didn’t recognize it on the MSN. (One example would be that Medicare paid a radiologist for reading an X-ray. The name of the radiologist is not familiar to you, but you received the service.) Maybe the billing was an error. If you are not satisfied, call the Missouri SMP at 1-888-515-6565 to report potential error, abuse, or fraud or call Aging Matters 1-800-392-8771, because…Aging Matters.