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Attorney General warns of Medicare scam

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If a stranger calls, sometimes it's best to hang up. That's the message from the Attorney General's Office in response to a new scam.

"They're looking for unsuspecting seniors who have time on their hands, who have money in their bank accounts and are trusting," said Jerry Strickland, attorney general spokesperson.

Spokesperson Jerry Strickland says identity thieves are calling seniors, claiming to be affiliated with the Federal Medicare program. Callers falsely tell seniors that the Medicare program's current identification cards--which have red, white and blue stripes across the top--are being phased out. The scam artists say that replacement Medicare cards must be obtained in order to continue receiving benefits.

They ask seniors to confirm their Medicare number and bank account information.

"There is no switch over going on," Strickland said. "When seniors or anybody, for that matter hears that the IRS, Medicare is trying to call to do those types of things, red flags need to go up immediately."

Strickland says 20 seniors have reported the suspicious calls, some of whom live in Central Texas. Luckily, none of them fell for it.

"Remember when you're talking about your bank account number, you only need a couple of digits, a couple pieces of information. They can wipe your account clean," Strickland said. "When we're talking about social security numbers there's a black market for them in this country. Where people are selling these numbers and perpetrating identity theft."

"It's heart-breaking, we've seen families, we've seen seniors lose their homes, lose their entire inheritance through scams," said Family Eldercare C.E.O. Angela Atwood.

To better arm yourself against thieves, Angela Atwood, C.E.O. of Family Eldercare, recommends participating in the organization's free money management program.

"We can work individually with seniors, go over their bills every month, reconcile their bank statements and help them look at what they're getting in the mail or what they see in their email that may put them at risk of exploitation," Atwood said.

"This is a different world that we live in. Some seniors, they lived in a world where they wouldn't think about somebody doing this to them. Times have changed," said Strickland.

The Attorney General's Office has a page dedicated to help protect seniors against fraud. To view, click here.

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