Social Security sends out letters to beneficiaries at certain times of the year. For example, in May they sent out letters to beneficiaries who may qualify for a Medicare Savings Program and/or the Medicare Part D’s low-income subsidy program, known as Extra Help. These letters are legitimate. At the same time, however, there are some “lead generating businesses”, meaning their primary function is to gather people’s information and sell it to other companies, that send out misleading postcards or flyers appearing to be from a government agency. Their postcards may highlight a certain benefit program such as the Medicare Savings Programs, add some details about eligibility and ask people to fill out and send in their card for more information. Some flyers or postcards will have a note disclosing they are not a government entity, though this can be easy to miss. These companies then sell the collected personal information to other businesses looking to market their products or senior services.
When receiving a postcard or flyer that asks you to send in your information, take a closer look at who it is from. Do you see any small print disclosing the name of a company? If so, you can look them up on the Better Business Bureau website to see how they rate, what they do and if there are any complaints.
Remember that Social Security and Medicare will not ask you to send them your personal information. They already have it. Instead, their letters will direct you to a Social Security or Medicare number to call for more information. They may also include your local SHIP number, which in California is our Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP).
If you receive such a postcard or flyer and think it’s a scam, also contact our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-7080 to report it.
Also, see our fraud alert, Beware of Lead Generating Businesses ~ Protect Your Identity, available in 8 languages.