Insurance Fraud Alert for Seniors
Seniors are often targets of insurance fraud, particularly in regard to life and health insurance. If you are a senior, it’s a good idea to seek advice from your friends or family, or from a trusted accountant, attorney, or financial adviser before making an insurance purchase. You should also feel free to contact your local Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) counselor in your local Department of Aging. SHIP counselors are trained individuals that can help you answer questions about Medicare benefits, bills and rights. Click here for a list of SHIP counselor phone numbers, or visit the Maryland Department of Aging’s website.
Be especially wary of a salesperson or telephone caller who:
- Contacts you unsolicited. The salesperson probably has obtained your information through a mailing list. He or she may offer to provide you with a “benefits check-up” or may say that you were referred by a friend or neighbor. This information may also come to you in the mail. Not all agents who contact you are dishonest, but it’s a good idea to be cautious.
- Uses high-pressure tactics. Common tactics include offering a “last-chance deal,” telling you there are “no monthly premiums,” appealing to your sympathy or emotions, or attempting to pressure you to sign forms without reviewing them with you carefully so that you fully understand them. Any decision to buy insurance should be made rationally, based on a sound assessment of your financial needs.
- Urges you to cash in an existing annuity or life insurance policy to buy a new annuity, life insurance policy, or other investment. Generally, annuities and life insurance are worth more the longer you keep them. Changing to a new annuity or policy may cause you to lose money over the first three to five years. Also, many insurance companies will charge you a penalty if you withdraw money from your annuity early. Discuss the tax consequences of early withdrawal with your tax advisor.
- Claims to be from Medicare, Social Security, or another government agency. Generally, the government will not contact you and try to sell you insurance. An agent or broker who claims to be associated with the government is breaking the law.
- Wants to sell you a package policy that includes several different benefits, some of which duplicate a policy you already have or include coverage you do not need.
- Wants you to pay cash or make your check/money order payable to him or her.
- Wants you to sign forms that contain false or incomplete information or are blank.
- Wants to fill out the forms for you. Make sure you read over and understand all of the forms you sign.
If you suspect Medicare fraud (for example, overbilling for services or billing for services you did not receive) or if you would like more information, you should contact the Maryland Senior Medicare Patrol at the Maryland Department of Aging at 800-243-3425 or 410-767-1100 or visit their website at www.mdoa.state.md.us. If you suspect other types of insurance fraud, contact the Maryland Insurance Administration at 1-800-846-4069.
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