Letters to the Pilot

Thursday, October 3, 2002

Shrewd and rude seniors


Fred lived in a small town in Northwest Iowa. He lived alone and had just finished lunch when he heard the knock on his front door. An official looking gentleman in a business suit was standing at his door holding a briefcase. The gentleman introduced himself as an employee of the federal government.

As they started visiting, the gentleman stated, "Since the September 11th tragedy, Fred, we have been very concerned about the protection of our senior citizens. Because we are not sure how secure our Medicare database is, we are going to be re-issuing new Medicare cards and numbers to everyone currently on Medicare. In order to be sure that our computer database information is correct, we will need to gather personal and health information from you today. We will also be taking your current Medicare card today, so it can be destroyed properly, and we will be mailing a new Medicare card to you in a few days."

Fred gave the gentleman the information he wanted, gave him his Medicare card, and showed him to the door.

Fred didn't realize it at the time, but he had just been the victim of a very slick scam. That gentleman had just stolen Fred's identity, not to mention his Medicare card, leaving Fred with nothing but regrets for being so gullible.

Although the above story about Fred is fictitious, Northwest Aging has been notified by Operation Restore Trust (ORT - the watchdog for Medicare scams and fraud) that this scam was reported in the Quad Cities area.

What could Fred have done differently to prevent this from happening?

According to Shirley Merner of ORT, "It is shrewd to be rude! Slam the door. Call the police."

To find out about current scams, to report a scam, or to find out what to do if you have been the victim of a scam, call ORT at 800-423-2449 or Northwest Aging at 712-262-1775 or 800-242-5033.

Irene Stoll,