Senior Life

News & information for the seniors in our community

Material in this section is published as is from various external sources.

Watch out for scams involving benefits applications

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[March 06, 2012]  The Illinois SMP program at AgeOptions has been receiving reports of health care companies offering to do benefits applications for older adults in senior buildings in various parts of the state. While there is nothing inherently wrong with health care providers assisting with benefit applications, we would like to provide a couple of relevant tips to ensure that consumers protect themselves from potential fraud.

In one recent example, while assisting people with Circuit Breaker applications, a home health agency requested the individuals' Medicare and Medicaid numbers. Neither Medicare nor Medicaid information is necessary to complete a Circuit Breaker application. Therefore, it is possible that this company was collecting that information for some other purpose, such as to enroll those individuals in home health care.

We recommend that people only utilize well-known, trusted sources of assistance when filling out benefits applications, such as the local Area Agency on Aging, a local senior center, or other provider of community services to older adults or people with disabilities. Because these applications require personal information, it is critical that consumers can trust the people who help fill them out, in order to avoid possible identity theft or other fraud. Benefits programs can also be complex, so if anyone is helping someone fill out a benefits program application, that person should be trained in those programs and how to do the applications. Many staff members at nonprofit social service agencies have received this kind of training, but health care providers and for-profit businesses may not.

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To summarize, our tips here are the same as always -- before you share personal information (Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers, etc.) with someone, make sure that person is someone that you know and can trust. Otherwise, you may be at risk for fraud or identity theft. Also, if someone asks for information to help you with a benefits application, make sure that they can tell you why they need that information and what they will do with it once the application has been completed (i.e., will they shred your personal information, or are they going to keep it on file to try to get you signed up for additional services in the future?) Unfortunately, because we have a large variety of scams in Illinois, it is important to always be on the 'lookout' for people who might be pretending to help us when really trying to take advantage of us!

[Copy of Illinois SMP Fraud Alert]

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