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August, 2006

Senior News from August, 2006

Medicare Glitch Creates Ideal Conditions for Scams

A serious glitch in the Medicare prescription drug benefit program is causing confusion and concern for hundreds of thousands of senior citizens enrolled in the program.  Earlier this month, Medicare mailed about 230,000 beneficiaries erroneous reimbursements, totaling about $50 million, and told them that their premiums would no longer be deducted from their Social Security checks.  This information was false, the result of a glitch in the Medicare computer system, and the reimbursements are being recalled by the government.  The affected beneficiaries must return the money to the appropriate authorities, and the situation has created conditions that are ideal for scam artists looking for ways to prey on the elderly.


All affected beneficiaries need to remember that Medicare will not call and ask for any personal information over the phone.  People who are contacted by someone asking for Social Security or banking information should not give it out.  Instead, call 877-772-3379, the number for Health Integrity, to report someone who has contacted you asking for this information as they may be up to no good.


Medicare will send the affected beneficiaries a letter in early September, explaining the error.  There are different ways to safely return the erroneous reimbursements to the government, and you can find out more at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.


Seniors Volunteer a Lifetime of Experience

More and more, older Americans are volunteering their free time to share their skills and experience with others.  Baby boomers and senior citizens alike are using more of their spare time to mentor children, clean up neighborhoods, and help others deal with issues such as fraud and identity theft.  A recent article from the Seattle Times details some of the activities that older Americans and retired people are doing to make a positive impact on society.


Meanwhile, another article from the Arizona Daily Star describes the creation of satellite offices across the state where people who feel they have been victimized by identity theft, consumer fraud, or some scam can go to learn more about their situation and get help.  These offices are staffed completely by volunteers, and their assistance is always needed. 


No matter what skills or talents one possesses, there is always an opportunity to put them to use and help others.  Find out what you can do by visiting the Senior Corps website, part of the Corporation for National and Community Service.


New Website Cares About Caregivers

Marion Somers, Ph.D., is publishing a new book for older adults who are caring for their parents.  She is promoting the book on her new website, but that’s not all.  Calling herself “Doctor Marion,” she launched the website with the goal of providing the most comprehensive resources and information about elder care to a rapidly growing population of baby boomer caregivers.  Using the website is free, and it offers tips, articles, videos, message boards, and other interactive features by which to communicate and ask questions. 


Caring for an elderly relative or loved one can often be confusing and intimidating, but Dr. Somers’s website aims to ease caregivers’ anxieties and make the entire experience positive for everyone involved.   She has collected 30 years of experience as an operator of a large geriatric care management practice, and she is a baby boomer herself.  Her message to caregivers is simple: You are not alone.


For more information, visit


Stressed Seniors Susceptible To Scams

Last month, at the first Senior Summit in Washington, DC, experts analyzed data on the relationship between senior citizens and investment fraud.  The research, compiled by NASD over the past two years, has provided many insights about why older Americans are disproportionately susceptible to investment scams.  In general, the study revealed that stress in a person’s life can increase their chances of becoming a victim of fraud.  People who have recently experienced adverse life events, such as divorce or home foreclosure, are more likely to engage in risky investments.  This “gambler’s mentality” blinds many to the difference between legitimate investments and scams.


Conclusions from the Senior Summit suggest that spending time with and comforting those who have recently been through stressful experiences could calm their anxiety and make them less susceptible to scams.  Also, since scammers use high-pressure sales tactics, senior citizens should always have a critical eye and take a firm stance when dealing with investors. 


To learn more, go to the NASD Foundation website.



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