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Forum staff reports, Published January 20 2010

Medicare beneficiaries warned of new phone scam

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm warned consumers today that phone scammers are calling Medicare beneficiaries in North Dakota about Part D penalties.

Phone scammers have called Medicare beneficiaries, saying the beneficiary owes a penalty for not having Part D (prescription drug) coverage.

The scam refers to the penalty that is imposed on people who are eligible for Part D coverage but don’t elect it and have no other creditable drug coverage.

The caller tells the beneficiary that he or she owes money for the penalty and that it needs to be paid right away.

“Medicare beneficiaries should never give financial or personal information to anyone who calls and says they are with Medicare,” Hamm said. “It is against Medicare’s rules to call beneficiaries and ask for that information.” Such calls must be placed by the beneficiaries themselves or handled by a follow-up letter to which the beneficiary may choose to reply.

Medicare beneficiaries should know:

• Medicare cannot call and ask for your financial or personal information over the phone.

• Always keep your personal information — including your Medicare number safe, just as you would a credit card or a bank account number.

• A Medicare drug plan may accept payments by phone, but they cannot call beneficiaries to request a payment be made. The beneficiary must be notified of the past due premiums via mail.

Any North Dakotan who receives a suspicious phone call regarding Medicare should immediately report it to Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-233-1737.