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2017-03-30

Beware of IRS & Medicare Scams

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With the April 18th income tax deadline looming, Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning Texans to be aware of a recurring tax-related scam involving unsolicited calls from people masquerading as Internal Revenue Service agents. Scam artists tell consumers that they owe back taxes and threaten to have them arrested if they don’t provide immediate payment.
If you receive an unexpected call from someone who claims to be with the IRS, follow these tips from the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office:
• Hang up! The IRS never makes unsolicited threatening phone calls.
• The IRS will never ask you to send money via wire or a prepaid credit card.
• Don’t be fooled by caller ID indicating it’s the IRS. Scammers use “spoof” phone numbers to give the appearance of being legitimate.
• Be suspicious of voice mail messages from scam artists who claim they’re with the IRS and leave a call back number with a Washington, D.C., area code. Report the phone number to the Texas attorney general’s office and the IRS.
• If you think you may owe money to the IRS, contact it directly at 800-829-1040 or at www.irs.gov.
Some scammers use letters or emails that appear official, however, legitimate communications from the IRS will come in a form letter and typically do not demand sensitive personal information. Scam communications may include typos or other mistakes that can be a warning sign. When in doubt of a letter’s authenticity, call the IRS to find out if the letter is legitimate.
While the IRS has announced partnerships with some private debt collectors, these businesses will not operate in the same manner as a scammer. Find more information about their operations here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/private-debt-collection. Help combat fraud in Texas by reporting suspicious solicitations. Write down the date and time of the call, the organization’s name, and the name and phone number left by the solicitor. You can file a complaint online with the Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office here: https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration here: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml.
Learn more about frauds and scams on our website here: https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/frauds-and-scams.
Medicare Scams
In addition to the IRS scam, the Courier has recently received a local complaint of phone calls received relating to a Medicare scam.
Like many other scams, these calls are an effort to acquire your personal information for use in identity theft to access bank accounts, etc.
Your caller ID will show that the call is from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Hotline.
The HHS OIG will never use the hotline for outgoing calls. Don’t answer the call.
If you don’t have caller ID and answer the phone be aware that a caller asking for your Medicare or Social Security number is not calling from HHS OIG. Medicare talks to you by appointment, not by calling you or coming to your home.
A report from the National Center on Aging by Brandy Bauer provides details of a particular Medicare scam about ordering a back/knee brace from a postcard:
‘You receive a colorful postcard stating that the sender has been trying to contact you about ordering a Medicare-covered back or knee brace. All they need is for you to send your Medicare information. What’s to lose?
This scam is particularly insidious, because you may actually receive something in the mail, usually a Velcro-style band for your back or knee. The scammer then bills Medicare for a device worth hundreds or thousands of dollars more than the one you received. And, armed with your Medicare information, they can continue to bill Medicare for services not rendered.
Medicare has strict coverage rules for its services and supplies, and it pays to keep these tips in mind:
• Never respond to open solicitations for Medicare-covered supplies/services.
• Only provide your Medicare number to health care providers or facilities at the time you are actively seeking service.
• Carefully monitor your Medicare statements for any claims for services or supplies billed to you which you did not receive. You can set up an account at MyMedicare.gov and access your claim information online anytime.’
If you’ve been solicited by a possible Medicare scammer, report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477), or submit a complaint online to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.