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Arkansas Senior Medicare/Medicaid News Alert

$299 Plan Scam Consumer Protection Alert

Arkansas Senior Medicare/Medicaid News Alert

Note: The following alert was issued by the Attorney General's office was the result of a call made by a Medicare beneficiary in western Arkansas. She had learned about the Senior Medicare Fraud Patrol from her local senior center, where volunteers from the WestArk RSVP had made presentations about fraud and what individuals could do to combat this problem.

On Friday, March 16, 2006, when she got a suspicious call from someone representing themselves as with a Medicare prescription drug plan and asking her for personal information such as her Medicare number, an ASMP volunteer scolded the caller, hung up and immediately reported the incident to Susie Reehl, Director of the WestArk RSVP. After talking with Mrs. W., Susie immediately contacted the Arkansas Senior Medicare/Medicaid Patrol offfice with the details. Within minutes, the information was passed on to the Attorney General's office. Mrs. Reehl said it was very satisfying to her volunteers to know they can make a difference.

Medicare Part D Scams

Arkansas Attorney General
Press Release

CONTACT: Matt DeCample
TELEPHONE: (501) 682-0517
March 17, 2006

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansans already dealing with the confusions and missteps of Medicare Part D may now be facing another inevitable part of the program’s implementation:  scams.   Attorney General Mike Beebe warned Arkansans today that one such scam, which has surfaced in at least six states, may now be targeting Arkansans.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has dubbed the scam the “$299 Ring.”  Seniors and disabled persons have received phone calls from individuals claiming to be able to assist with enrollment in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.  The caller tries to convince the Medicare recipient to provide their bank-account numbers or other personal information.  In other states, $299 is the typical amount of money taken from the victims who do give information.

Beebe’s office is investigating a report from an Arkansan who received a similar call earlier this week.  Fortunately, the consumer became suspicious and did not give out any personal information, and investigators are now working to find the source of the call.

“This type of scam can add insult to injury for Arkansans already dealing with problems related to Medicare Part D,” Beebe said.  “It targets those who need these benefits and can least afford to lose money to a scam artist.  Sadly, however, with a national program of this size and scope, such schemes were bound to surface.”

CMS emphasizes that representatives from any of the approved Part D plans should not ask for personal information over the phone.  Beebe reminds Arkansans that they should never have to give any personal information to someone who calls uninvited, no matter who the caller claims to be.  In addition, legitimate plans will not charge up-front fees before enrolling Medicare recipients.

Medicare officials have received complaints about this scam from Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Any Arkansans who feel they have been targeted can report the caller to Medicare at 1-877-772-3379 or contact the Attorney General’s Office.
For free help with Medicare Plan D enrollment, consumers can contact the Arkansas Seniors Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) at (501) 371-2782 or (800) 224-6330.

For information on other consumer matters, contact the Public Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at Suite 200, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, AR 72201.  The office can be reached by calling 682-2341 (Little Rock) or 1-800-482-8982.  Spanish-speaking consumers can also call (501) 683-3130. TDD service is available for the hearing impaired at 682-6073. The address on the World Wide Web is www.arkansasag.gov.

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Arkansas Senior Medicare/Medicaid News Alert

$299 Plan Scam Consumer Protection Alert*

Arkansas Senior Medicare/Medicaid Fraud Patrol
PO Box 1437  Slot S530
Little Rock  AR  72203-1437
Toll-Free Hotline:  1-866-726-2916

To: Aging Services Organizations & Senior Medicare Patrol Community Partners
From: The National Consumer Protection Technical Resource Center
Date: March 7, 2006

Subject: Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Consumer Alert: CMS Issues $299 Plan Scam Consumer Protection Alert

CMS, the agency that oversees the Medicare program, has recently issued a consumer alert noting that they have received reports from five different states of bogus companies offering prescription drug plans for $299.  According to CMS, complaints have been made against a number of different companies, but authorities believe that the companies are the same and are typically based outside the U. S. 

Reports have also been received about potentially fraudulent companies using email and the Web to offer free or low-cost prescription drug programs for a fee.  Consumers have been asked to pay as much as $195, or a finder’s fee of $5 per prescription to locate free drug programs. 

Other types of potential scams being reported include:

  • Individuals falsely representing themselves as being from the Medicare, the Social Security Administration or the American Medical Association;
  • Consumers being asked to sell their prescription drugs or use their Medicare benefits to cover someone else’s medications;
  • Illegal kickbacks to pharmacies, doctor’s or other health care providers to encourage them to change prescriptions or prescribe drugs that aren’t needed; and
  • Prescription drug shorting—the pharmacy providing less pills than prescribed

Know the facts:

  • The Social Security Administration and Medicare are not going to call or visit you to enroll you in a prescription drug or other health plan;
  • The American Medical Association does not make calls to consumers;
  • No one can come into your home uninvited;
  • Medicare Prescription Drug Plans’ (Medicare Part D) sales representatives are allowed to call people with Medicare to talk about the drug plans they represent. However, they are not allowed
  • to ask a person with Medicare for bank account, Medicare number or other personal information over the phone;
  • to ask a person with Medicare for bank account, Medicare number or other personal information over the phone;
  • Information on free and low-cost prescription drug programs is available at no charge.  Ask your pharmacist or physician for information or check out Web sites like pparx.org or benefitscheckup.org. These Web site programs use computer programs to determine whether there might be a match for you among the various programs

To avoid these and other scams, take the following actions:

  • Hang up the phone immediately. It’s shrewd to be rude!
  • Never give any personal information, such as Medicare, Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who calls on the phone or comes to the door.
  • Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry at 1.888.382.1222.
  • Call 911 if you feel threatened.
  • Report scams to your local police or sheriff’s office.
  • Call your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1.866.726.2916 to report or discuss possible fraud or scams and to schedule a presentation about fraud for your group.
  • Whenever you have a question or concern about any activity regarding Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1.800.633.42273).

If you receive a report of someone stealing or attempting to steal someone’s money or personal information, call:

  • Your local police department;
  • 1-877-7SAFERX (1-877-772-3379), OR
  • 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048)

If you believe personal information has been stolen or misused, call:

  • Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft hotline at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY users should call 1-866-653-4261).

If you believe that an organization has violated Medicare marketing guidelines for the Prescription Drug Program, call:

  • 1-877-7SAFERX (1-877-772-3379); AND
  • Your state insurance commissioner

Contact your local SMP Program for help or to report a complaint.  These are programs funded by the Administration on Aging, with staff and volunteers available to help gather and review information and ensure appropriate referrals are made to law enforcement or regulatory agencies. 
Call toll-free at 1-866-726-2916.

National Consumer Protection Technical Recource Center logo

Toll Free: 877.808.2468
The Center of Service & Information for Senior Medicare Patrol Projects
Funding Support in part by the US Administration on Aging

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If you have questions or concerns about health care fraud, are interested in volunteering, or would like to schedule a free speaker call or email Kathleen Pursell at 501-320-6457 -- or the toll-free ASMP Fraud Hotline 1-866-726-2916.

This page was updated on July 19, 2013