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Editorial - Stop Medicare scammers by hanging up

Have you received a call lately from someone asking you about Medicare, Social Security or supplemental insurance?

Beware. It could be a scam. The caller may be trying to trick you into disclosing private financial information.

The Minnesota Attorney General's Office recently issued an alert about this new scam that's targeting senor citizens. The callers use private information to steal identities or make unauthorized withdrawals from a person's bank account.

Here's how it works: The scammers, who frequently have foreign accents, according to the attorney general's office, claim to represent Medicare, Social Security, or an insurance company. They claim that new Medicare, Social Security, supplemental insurance benefits cards are being issued or that the beneficiary's file must be updated. The scam artist asks the citizen to verify or provide their personal banking information, which is then used to commit theft.

Callers involved in this crime ring may be extremely aggressive, calling over and over, and at all times of the day, in an attempt to wear down the potential victim, according to the attorney general's office. These criminals will say anything to try to gain a person's trust. In some cases, the criminals may have already obtained some limited personal information about the citizen, such as his or her name, address, or even Social Security number, which the criminal then uses to try to make the call seem legitimate. In other cases, the callers may claim that they can improve the benefits.

The advice from the attorney general's office: Do not believe these claims, and do not carry on a conversation with the caller. Instead, if you receive a call asking you to disclose your bank account or other financial information, hang up immediately. These are criminals, and by speaking with the callers, even to ask them to stop calling, they may be encouraged to continue calling your telephone number.

If you are a Medicare or Social Security beneficiary, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration do not call you to ask you to disclose financial information in order to get a new card.

If you receive such a call, you should report it to these agencies: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244 (1-800-633-4227); and Social Security Administration, Office of Public Inquiries, Windsor Park Building, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21235 (1-800-772-1213).

Citizens who receive such calls are also encouraged to report them to the FBI as follows: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Minneapolis Office, 111 Washington Avenue South, Suite 1100, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (612-376-3200).

The attorney general's office offers these three tips to help you avoid falling victim to this scam:

• Remember, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration will not call you to update your information or give you a new card.

• If someone who calls you asks for your personal information, do not provide it.

• If calls persist, you may wish to speak to your phone company about calling features that would enable you to be selective in the calls that you accept or receive.

A big problem with scams such as these is the more successful the crooked callers are, the more people they call. Let's stop them from casting a wider net. Hang up, report it and let others know.