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Senior Safety

Norfolk District Attorney's Office

Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey Warns 
Medicare Subscribers of New Medicare Scans

Beginning in April of 2018, Medicare will stop using individual social security numbers for identification and will instead provide beneficiaries with new identification numbers called Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBIs).  The change is part of a larger effort to reduce seniors’ exposure to identity theft and fraud by better protecting coveted social security numbers.  

Although intended to protect victims from fraud and identify theft, scammers are using this Medicare change to scam seniors and rob them of their hard earned money.  Scammers are calling Medicare beneficiaries pretending to be employed by Medicare and seeking to verify their Medicare number before Medicare can issue their new MBI.  Believing they are taking important next steps in obtaining their new Medicare card, unsuspecting beneficiaries provide their old Medicare number to scammers.  Unbeknown to the Medicare beneficiary, they just provided their sensitive social security number to a scammer to exploit.  

Other Medicare beneficiaries are receiving telephone calls from scammers indicating they work for Medicare and threaten to shut off their Medicare benefits if they do not cooperate and verify their existing Medicare number. Others are being ordered to forward payment to scammers before they will receive their new Medicare card.

It is important for beneficiaries to know that Medicare will not call you to obtain or verify your Medicare numbers. They already have them.  There is no “confusion” with your Medicare care number, regardless of what a caller might say.

Each member’s new Medicare card will arrive without any action or payment on your part and will be mailed to the same mailing address that Medicare uses to correspond with you regularly.  The new card will not change your current Medicare coverage or benefits. 

If you receive a call from someone purporting to be from Medicare, hang up and report the call to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and to the Massachusetts Senior Medicare Patrol Program (MA SMP) at 800-892-0890 or at www.MASMP.org. 

Please share this information with family and friends to protect them from such scams.

The Massachusetts Senior Medicare Patrol Program advises beneficiaries to Protect, Detect and Report.Whether you believe your personal identifying information has been compromised through a Medicare scam or any other kind of scam, you are encouraged to follow these tips:

PROTECT
Never give out your Medicare number to a stranger or solicitor. Medicare does not call or visit you to sell you anything. Don’t carry your card unless you need it. Save Medicare Summary Notices and Part D Explanation of Benefits. Shred them when no longer needed. 

DETECT
Carefully review your Medicare Summary Notice and Part D Explanation of Benefits for mistakes. You can access your Medicare account 24 hours a day at www. MyMedicare.gov. Look for charges for something you did not get, billing for the same thing twice and services not ordered by your doctor. 

REPORT
Report errors, fraud or abuse you suspect as soon as possible to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and the MA Senior Medicare Patrol at 800-892-0890.

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Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey Warns Residents 
To Be Wary of Rental Scams

Have you been saving your money to afford a vacation on the beach? Or to escape the cold New England winter in Florida?  District Attorney Morrissey warns residents to use caution before making a deposit on your next vacation/rental property.  Prior to giving up your hard earned money, it is imperative that residents do their homework to ensure you are dealing with a legitimate rental property, a legitimate renter, and that you are getting what you are paying for.  Scammers are robbing residents of their hard earned money daily.

Online searches for vacation rentals usually include beautiful photos with descriptions that make it inviting to put a deposit on your upcoming vacation or rental property.  Online portals, including Craigslist, AirBnB, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and other legitimate sites try to protect their online visitors by offering secure payment and reviews.  However, scammers are often one step ahead of legitimate companies.  So  before you give money to a potential landlord, google the rental property and ensure it actually exists.  Check google map and look at the street or aerial view of the property to ensure it matches the ad description. Search online for the homeowner’s name and confirm the name matches the name on the lease agreement.

Do not pay cash or wire money to individuals under any circumstances.  Most legitimate companies have the option of paying by credit card.  Credit card companies provide the ability to challenge a fraudulent charge and provide certain protections not otherwise available to residents if you pay by cash or wire money.

When deciding on renting property, if the price of the rental property seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If the property checks out and you enter into an agreement, make sure your agreement is in writing.  Don’t hesitate to ask a trusted friend or family member to review all agreements prior to executing – a second pair of eyes never hurts.  Contracts typically have several penalty clauses and restrictions that you are bound to once the contract is executed.

Finally, listen to your gut.  If something doesn’t sound right or if you are getting a bad feeling about this deal, stop and ask a trusted friend for help.  Being wary of scams will ensure that you are able to enjoy your vacation and protect your hard earned money.

In the event that you are scammed, immediately contact your local police department to the report the scam.  Also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP or www.ftc.gov.

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Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey Warns of Home Repair Scams

Summer is here and with that comes the need and desire to make necessary home repairs and improvements.  Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey warns home owners to beware of perennial home repair and improvement scams that can rob homeowners of their money and sense of security.  Corrupt businesses routinely scam unsuspecting homeowners into either paying higher prices for services rendered or talk homeowners into fully or partially pay for work upfront and then ultimately never provide the contracted services.  

According to AARP, these home improvement and home repair scams typically target low income families and the elderly, with a primary focus on our most vulnerable population.  Scammers look for external signs that indicate a vulnerability - homes with wheelchair ramps, handicap placards displayed on cars, and, sometimes, unkempt lawns and homes. 

Once identified, scammers typically will make introductions by engaging in small jobs and then progress to larger jobs at a higher cost.  Services offered by scammers include roof repair, driveway paving, duct cleaning, tree trimming, chimney cleaning and general household maintenance like lawn mowing or leaf blowing.  Scammers contact homeowners by door-to-door solicitation, flyers, local advertisements and high pressured phone calls.  Often scammers will highlight the quality of their work in neighboring communities.  

While there are many legitimate and hardworking home improvement and home repair companies, be wary when you encounter the following:

  • Door-to-door solicitations, phone calls and emails offering home improvements and repairs at low prices;
  • Solicitations where the business tell you they are doing work in your neighborhood and have extra materials left from the old job that can be used on your home;
  • High pressure sales pitches which require you to make a decision that day or lose out on a discounted price;
  • High pressure sales pitches that emphasize the urgency of the needed improvement or repair;
  • Businesses that are not established.  Check with the Better Business Bureau prior to engaging in contract work;
  • Solicitations that require you to execute a contract immediately; 
  • Solicitations that request full or partial payment upfront;
  • Solicitations that lack information identifying the business to conduct the requested work;
  • Solicitations that provide a list of references that are not local to the area;
  • Solicitations that confuse you; and
  • Solicitations that you don’t understand;

It is imperative that you be an informed consumer.  Here are tips to protect you and your loved ones from scams:

  • Do not let solicitors in your home if you are alone;
  • Have a trusted friend or family member with you when solicitors come inside your home;
  • Seek referrals from family and friends if you need any home improvements or repairs;
  • Investigate all businesses you seek to do business with prior to signing any agreements;
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau prior to engaging the services of a business;
  • Avoid contractors without proof of insurance;
  • Carefully read all contracts and agreements prior to signing;
  • Seek assistance from trusted family or friends in reading and understanding contracts;
  • Never sign a contract or agreement just because you feel pressured;
  • Require all agreements to be in writing;
  • Refuse to sign an agreement you do not understand;
  • Recognize if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is;
  • Ensure project completion prior to payment;
  • Do not pay with cash;
  • Contract with established in-state reputable businesses;
  • Ensure proper licensure by looking online at https://services.oca.state.ma.us/hic/licenseelist.aspx

Finally, be wary of solicitors arriving at your home in pairs.  These scammers could be there to rob you.  One might be tasked with diverting or distracting you while the other steals your personal belongings.  

If you have been scammed, immediately contact your local police department to report the conduct and file a police report.

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DA Morrissey Warns of Lottery and Prize Winning Scams

A Milton elder recently received a letter announcing that he had won the lottery. A whopping $500,000 was coming from an international marketing survey held last March. The elder did not recall participating in a marketing survey, but it was certainly possible. Survey requests frequently pop up on his computer. Sometimes he completes them. They often offer some kind of enticement.

It seemed so possible. And attractive: $500,000 buys some serious comfort.

Even better: As a “courtesy” – because “U.S. law prohibits requiring contest winners pay anything to collect a prize” – the letter was accompanied by a check for $8,895.75 to cover taxes, insurance, shipping and handling. The check appeared authentic, complete with watermarks and the typical features of a proper check. A Google search of the name and address printed on the check confirmed it was from a legitimate financial institution.

But it was all a lie. It was a fake check.

Counterfeit checks are often made to look so authentic that even bank tellers cannot tell the difference. A high quality scanner, image editing software, and a decent printer can make an unlimited number of very real looking checks.

The letter provided the Milton man with a claim number and a phone number with instructions not to act on the letter until after calling the claim agent. When he called, he was told to go to the bank to deposit the check, leave the letter at home, and tell no one about the winnings yet. After making the deposit, he was told to wire the amount of the check, $8,895.75, back to pay the taxes, insurance, shipping, and handling. As soon as the firm received the wired money, the $500,000 in winnings would be sent to him in Milton.

Thankfully, the man sought the advice of a friend and did not follow the scammer’s instructions. If he had, his bank would have soon discovered the check was a fake and, if the money had already been wired to the scammers, he would have been responsible for the money drawn from his account to cover it. Wiring money is like giving cash.

Why do scammers keep trying lottery scams like this? Because unlike our Milton man, people keep falling for them. The feeling of opening a letter – a very plausible letter – saying that you have just come into a large quantity of money is exhilarating. Exhilaration and excitement can lead to rash decisions. Scammers are well practiced in creating a sense of urgency in their targets – perhaps by imposing a deadline for upfront payment or the winnings will be lost.

Tips to avoid the lottery scam:

  • Throw away offers that ask you to pay for a prize or gift. It is a scam.
  • If something seems too good to be true, it likely is. That is your red flag – do some investigation.
  • Never wire money to a stranger. Ever.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It is illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail. Most are scams.
  • Not all lottery scams use counterfeit checks. Some ask that you provide personal identifying information and/or credit card account information – then abuse that data. Do not provide your personal information.
  • Never draw from your bank account against a check until after you have confirmation the check has cleared.
  • Recognize high-pressure tactics; be wary of anyone telling you that you must “act now.”
  • Counterfeit checks are being used in many other scams, including internet auction scams, overpayment scams and secret shopper scams.

If you suspect you are a target of these or any other scams, do not click on the link, do not engage with the caller, do not rush into a decision, and, above all, do not provide any personal information. Ask a friend. Ask a police officer.

Report scams to the police and the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP or www.ftc.gov. When it comes to scams, vigilance is your number one weapon. Learn more about scams by visiting www.norfolkda.com and clicking the ‘seniors’ link.

 

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