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ID Thieves Target Texas Seniors Enrolled in Medicare
Friday, March 29, 2013 6:55 AM

Identity thieves posing as employees of the federal Medicare program are reportedly targeting Texas seniors.

The attorney general’s office has received several recent complaints from Medicare recipients who have received calls from the impostors.  The callers tell victims that the program’s current identification cards are being phased out and ask for sensitive information so that a new card can be issued and they can continue receiving benefits. They typically ask for checking account information and Medicare numbers, which are identical to Social Security numbers.

The attorney general’s office is urging Medicare recipients to refuse to provide any personal information to unsolicited callers, and to just hang up the phone when in doubt.

Millions of dollars are stolen every year from seniors as a result of elder financial abuse.  Many elder Americans are fearful and ashamed of their financial abuse, and to complicate matters, they are frequently impaired by diminished mental capacity—especially financial capacity. Experts predict this problem will likely intensify as the Baby Boomer generation ages, representing an enormous concentration of wealth after a lifetime of working and investing.

Credit unions can play a critical role in the prevention of elder financial abuse and exploitation (EFAE).

“If credit union personnel are trained to identify EFAE, they can then report suspected cases to appropriate authorities, as required by statute, with a greater degree of confidence,” says Paula Upchurch, director of TCUL’s REAL Solutions program.

Last week, the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) announced that it has joined forces with its REAL Solutions program to develop a new initiative to promote awareness EFAE in the financial services industry.

According to Upchurch, REAL Solutions will be developing information and training modules to help credit unions combat this problem.

“Frontline staff members are the first defense in identifying suspicious activity,” adds Mike Delker, TCUL senior vice president of Credit Union Relations.  “It’s critical that they be empowered to identify the red flags.”   

Credit unions can learn more about this initiative, by visiting TCUL’s web site, at http://www.tcul.coop/REAL_Solutions.html.

REAL Solutions is a statewide partnership between the National Credit Union Foundation and the Texas Credit Union League. It is supported by grants from the Texas Credit Union Foundation and Friends of Consumer Freedom.