CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The AARP Foundation held its annual program in Charleston on Thursday about widespread frauds that often target and victimize elderly Americans, which include warnings about phony "Obamacare cards" and fake free offers.
Janet Clarke, from West Virginia ElderWatch, said at the Embassy Suites in Charleston that recent scams include getting telephone calls from people posing as a relative in jail in some foreign country who desperately needs money to get out.
"Other people have been asked if they have their Obamacare cards. But those cards don't even exist. It is just an attempt to get personal information from you," Clarke said.
Kim Riddle, from the West Virginia Senior Medical Patrol, outlined the numerous scams to "bill for services, equipment and supplies that are never provided."
Some people get telephone calls telling them that their Medicare cards have expired.
"Then they charge you $299 for a new Medicare card," Riddle said. "But your Medicare card never expires."
Riddle has seen a wide variety of false medical bills. One 72-year-old woman was tested for pregnancy.
Riddle warned seniors to be very wary of any "free offers" for medical equipment over the telephone.
"When someone calls you with a 'free offer,' it is not a free offer. Then to cancel those services, you can't do it over the phone. You have to mail in written documents."
Riddle urged people to always protect their identities.
"Do not carry your Medicare card with you all the time. And shred papers and bills."
Riddle also pointed out, "Medicare doesn't call or visit you to sell you anything. They don't sell anything." More information about Medicare is available at www.MyMedicare.gov.
Marcia Meeks, from the West Virginia State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP, spoke about Medicare open enrollment.
Enrollment for supplementary programs, such as programs helping pay for pharmaceuticals, can be opened each year between October 15 and December 7. People can register for new plans or change plans during this period of time.