Guard Your New Medicare ID Card to Avoid Fraud

Medicare ID fraud happens when someone uses your Medicare card to get your personal information, like your Social Security or Medicare ID number. A fraudster could steal your identity to open new credit cards or bank accounts using your name and credit. They also could use your Medicare ID card information to file fake claims for healthcare you did not receive—like billing for a motorized scooter that you don’t need. Medicare fraud wastes a lot of money each year and results in higher health care costs for everyone.  

Follow these tips to guard your Medicare ID card:

  • Keep your Medicare and Social Security cards secure.
  • Don’t share your numbers with anyone other than your health care team.
  • If someone calls and asks for your Medicare information, hang up. Medicare will only call you if you’ve called and left a message or if a representative said that someone will call you back.
  • Check your statements carefully and log into MyMedicare.gov to spot possible fraud and billing mistakes. 
  • Report suspicious activities by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

New Medicare cards

If you are a Medicare recipient, you might have heard that new Medicare cards are on their way to your mailbox. The new cards will have a unique Medicare ID number instead of your Social Security number. The new Medicare ID cards are good news for everyone, except fraudsters who use Social Security numbers to steal people’s identity and commit Medicare fraud. You will receive your new Medicare ID card by April 2019. 

Free placemat on Medicare ID fraud

To celebrate Older Americans month this May, we created a new Medicare-themed placemat. The Medicare ID fraud placemat includes information to help older adults spot and avoid fraud. 

The placemat is part of a series of consumer education placemats that meal service providers deliver to homebound seniors and senior meal sites. The placemats are free to download or order in bulk. This placemat also shares valuable information on the rollout of the new Medicare cards. 

Spot Medicare ID fraud and report it

  • Order our Medicare ID fraud prevention and awareness placemats and share with people in your community. You can use the placemats year-round to help educate older adults and others about how to protect themselves against fraudsters. 
  • Report any suspected fraud to your law enforcement’s non-emergency number. If you suspect that someone is a victim of elder abuse or financial exploitation, also report it to Adult Protective Services (APS). Find your local APS at eldercare.acl.gov. If you think the person’s safety may be at risk, call 911.
  • Report Medicare fraud by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or report online through the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Change Your Twitter Password. Now.

You may have heard the recent news that Twitter discovered a bug that stored passwords “unmasked” in an internal log. What does this mean? If you are a Twitter user, your password could be exposed. Twitter says that there are no signs of a breach or misuse by anyone currently, but it’s still a good idea to change your password. Did you use the same password for other accounts? Change those, too.

Here are some tips on creating passwords:

  • Make your password long, strong and complex. That means at least twelve characters, with upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid common words, phrases or information.
  • Don’t reuse passwords used on other accounts. Use different passwords for different accounts so that, if a hacker compromises one account, he can’t access other accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authentication, when available. For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or token. This protects your account even if your password is compromised.
  • Consider a password manager. Most people have trouble keeping track of all their passwords. Consider storing your passwords and security questions in a reputable password manager, an easy-to-access application that stores all your password information. Use a strong password to secure the information in your password manager.
  • Select security questions only you know the answer to. Many security questions ask for answers to information available in public records or online, like your zip code, mother’s maiden name, and birth place. That is information a motivated attacker can get. And don’t use questions with a limited number of responses that attackers can easily guess – like the color of your first car.
  • Change passwords quickly if there’s a breach. If you get a notification from a company about a possible breach, change the password for that account right away, and any other account that uses a similar password.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Railroad Retirement Income Is Less Than My Husband Estimated Before He Passed

Question:

Dear Steve,

Dec. 19, 2016 my husband died after a 6 year battle with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. Railroad Retirement did not pay anything close to what my husband told me to expect and since he was so sure it was so good he never considered an Insurance Policy, as he also insisted he would “live to be 110 years old – give or take 10 years.”

Upon his passing “our Family Income” (just me left) dropped by over $3000/mo. When it looked like I would not be able to keep up with all the debt, I went in to speak with my bank, Wells Fargo, about a Debt Consolidation Loan – they were sorry, but the “Board” would not approve the loan, same for Discover. Regardless of what Banks would or would not do I had to sell our 12 yr old home/property in Florida for huge loss, but I was offered to move to my sister and brother-in-law’s property in Tennessee, which I did.

It had taken 5 months to get the house ready and sold, not to mention all the “You MUST Repair this or that – and several projects the Buyers ‘Home Inspector’ said had to be done were found to be erroneous (turns out he was from ALASKA and had not researched “foundations” in FLORIDA) and he was insisting on “corrections” to the foundations of the Deck and Handicap Ramp, which I had already had repaired.

I rented the largest U-Haul truck in March, April and May along with “loaders” and “unloaders” each time. It was trying and outrageously expensive – turns out a Professional Mover would have only cost just over half and all the damage, if any by Professionals, would have been covered.

I knew I would need some time to get settled and planned to get a job to start to whittle down the debts beginning Spring 2018. I recently paid off the last of Virlyn’s few Dr’s Bills and was paying more than the minimum to each creditor, but on August 17th, 2017 I had a fall at home which stopped preparations on the property here. I thought it was only going to be a few weeks, but it was Dec 2017 and after seeing several Drs, it was determined to be an impinged nerve in my neck.

Was told one or two Cortico-Steroid shots into the Cervical Vertebrae would probably fix me up for several years and I would be able to have additional shots in the future if necessary. My daughter took me to the first one on Jan. 17th, as I had been told I would be unable to drive for at least 24 hours, and 22 minutes after leaving the Dr’s Offices we were rear-ended by an 18-wheeler at a light coming off the I-40 in Cookeville, TN.

After the ER, Exam and Xrays, I was sent home with pain relievers and muscle relaxers. The Dr tried another shot 2 weeks later, which did not do any good. The accident had further damaged the neck and moved bone spurs leaving the only alternative ACDF Cervical Surgery on March 6th.

In surgery Dr Cruz found the spurs had changed position, the vertebrae were soft, and the Titanium plate necessary to keep the two cadaver bones in place would be fragile as the screws could be displaced by a fall, sharp knock to my head or back, etc. which would allow movement of the cadaver bones replacing the damaged discs that could sever my spinal column.

I now knew I would not be able to go back to work as I was restricted from being on ladders, needed to use steps as little as possible, stay off uneven ground and avoid walking around obstacles or into anything and not lift or carry more than 20 pounds. No company was going to hire me now as the Liability would not be acceptable. Lowe’s where I had been a Cabinet Project Designer in FL, found me loading In-Stock Cabinets and Counter-tops, even using what we called a “Cherry Picker” to go up and “pull Stock”, which would weigh anywhere from 20 to well over 90 pounds. So, even a job I had loved and would likely have been able to get at one of the stores within 60 miles of Spencer, Tennessee would no longer be one I can do.

I continued to pay more than the minimum on the debts by using the Credit Cards to live on and my income to pay the cards, occasionally taking funds from what little I had in savings. In late January I looked into Bankruptcy, spoke with an attorney who recommended Chapter 7 due to my age and the amount of debt.

I again looked into Debt-Consolidation Loan Companies who wanted instead to do Debt Reduction that would then be impossible to do. I have $973.94 a month to spend on groceries, prescriptions, toiletries, fuel, vehicle maintenance, phone and computer maintenance as needed, plus a little to put away for any emergency, and form my Shih Tzu – food, Vet, medicines, etc., and Salvation Funding ONLY wanted me to pay $721.19/mo. for 52 months to “resolve my debts.” I had to quit paying on the cards in February as I had maxed them out and there was nothing to live on if I continued to pay even the minimum payments.

The Interest Rates are near 30% and that was even when I was paying more and consistently on time – Wells Fargo was the first and worst after telling me originally I could have 0% for 12 months and 12.4% there after – they changed the interest rate to over twice that at the end of the 0% period and raised it again -while I was still under the Credit Line and on time with over the min payments.

I am past due on non-secured debts in excess of $54,000. As a Widow of a Railroader my only income is Railroad Retirement/Social Security plus $32/mo from my husband’s BNSF RR Pension. After paying Rent, Utilities, Health, Life and Auto Insurance, etc., I have blessed little left.

I should be receiving a settlement from a vehicle accident, but it may take 7 to 13 months or more, can I offer to split up to 50% of that with them and have them leave me alone until I receive the payout or just tell them to sue me – who has nothing more than my 2012 car, which I have to keep as my Dr is 65 minutes away, and I live in a rural area where the nearest store, pharmacy, bank, etc. are all 40 plus minutes away? I truly do not know what to do.

K-Lee

Answer:

Dear K-Lee,

Salvation Funding again. Salvation Funding appears to be offering debt consolidation loans but their site is a little light on details. – Source

From everything you’ve described, I would be hard-pressed to recommend any other solution other than bankruptcy. It seems on face value to be the most logical solution given your unfortunate set of misfortunes and circumstances.

Logically the path at this point would be to reset your debt, by eliminating it, and then regroup your finances to fit within your current income. It sounds as if your income would be protected from garnishment because it is benefit income but let’s explore closing the door on the old debt so you can focus on a less stressful future.

You can find a good local bankruptcy attorney and have a free discussion about what bankruptcy would mean for you. Bankruptcy is the fastest way to get a fresh start for the least amount of money.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

I’m Disabled and Being Sued About Past Due Credit Card Debt

Question:

Dear Steve,

I am being sued over a $2600 debt with CC company. I am fully disabled. My income comes from two sources, SSDI and private disability insurance.

I know that SSDI is not garnishable, however, it’s unclear whether my private disability insurance is garnishable. Wisconsin statues regarding this matter at best are extremely vague or nonexistent.

John

Answer:

Dear John,

I asked for feedback from Eric Olsen, the Executive Director at the nonprofit law firm HELPS.

Here is what he had to say about your situation, “Almost every state has laws that protect private disability from garnishment. Because of that and for other reasons a consumer judgment creditor, including a credit card judgment holder, will never take steps to garnish private disability. Even in a state where the law is questionable.

Furthermore, twice the amount of social security electronically deposited into a bank account is protected from garnishment under federal banking regulations, no matter the source of the funds in the account at the time of a garnishment. So, if you receive $1000 each month in SS, then $2000 is protected automatically no matter where the money came from, including private disability, that is in the bank at the time of the garnishment. So if you keep the checking balance below that number, any garnishment would be disregarded by the bank.”

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC Obtains Preliminary Injunction Against Mortgage Relief Operation That Deceived Homeowners

Defendants sought advance payments for services they never delivered

The Federal Trade Commission has charged a mortgage relief operation with deceiving distressed homeowners by falsely promising to make their mortgages more affordable and prevent foreclosure. A federal court temporarily halted the scheme and froze the defendants’ assets at the FTC’s request.

According to the FTC, the defendants claim a 99 percent success rate and guarantee results regardless of a consumer’s situation, and falsely say they work with certain lenders and government mortgage assistance programs. One of the defendants, Capital Home Advocacy Center, falsely claims to be accredited by the Better Business Bureau, which rated it F, the BBB’s lowest rating.

Soon after consumers apply for the purported services, the defendants falsely tell them they are “confirmed” for a specific and substantial mortgage payment reduction, and direct them to pay several thousand dollars in “closing costs.” Federal law prohibits mortgage assistance providers from seeking or accepting payment before consumers contract with their loan holders or servicers on terms obtained by the providers.

The defendants encourage consumers to stop paying their lenders and fail to tell them that, by doing so, they could lose their homes and damage their credit ratings. The defendants also indicate that a consumer cannot or should not communicate with their mortgage lender or servicer.

In addition to prohibiting deceptive marketing claims, federal law prohibits mortgage assistance providers from misrepresenting the likelihood of success or how long it will take, pretending to be affiliated with any government agency or program, and misrepresenting a consumer’s obligation to make scheduled loan payments. Mortgage assistance providers must disclose that they are not associated with the government, that their services are not approved by the government or any lender, and that consumers can stop doing business with them or reject an offer without having to pay. In certain cases, they must disclose that a lender may not agree to modify a loan, and that people who stop paying their mortgages could lose their home or damage their credit.

The defendants, charged with violating the FTC Act and the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule [MARS Rule (Regulation O)], are: American Home Servicing Center LLC; Capital Home Advocacy Center LLC; National Advocacy Center LLC; Jaime Aburto, also known as James Aburto and Jamie Aburto, and doing business as A.H.S.C.; Marcus Fierro, Jr., d/b/a A.H.S.C. and American Home Servicing Center; Eve Christine Rodriguez, a/k/a Elizabeth Davis, Elizabeth Powers, Christine Rodriguez, Christina Rodriguez and Elizabeth Rodriguez, and d/b/a National Advocacy Group; and Sergio Lorenzo Rodriguez, a/k/a Sergio Lawrence and d/b/a National Advocacy Group.

The Commission vote approving the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on April 13, 2018, and a preliminary injunction as to American Home Servicing Center LLC, Capital Home Advocacy Center LLC, National Advocacy Center LLC, and Marcus Fierro, Jr. on April 26, 2018.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Mobile Phone Maker BLU Reaches Settlement with FTC over Deceptive Privacy and Data Security Claims

Agency alleges BLU misled consumers and put their personal data at risk

Mobile phone manufacturer BLU Products, Inc. and its co-owner have reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that the company allowed a China-based third-party service provider to collect detailed personal information about consumers, such as text message contents and real-time location information, without their knowledge or consent despite promises by the company that it would keep such information secure and private. As part of the settlement, BLU must implement a comprehensive data security program to help prevent unauthorized access of consumers’ personal information and address security risks related to BLU phones.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that BLU and its co-owner and President Samuel Ohev-Zion misled consumers by falsely claiming that they limited third-party collection of data from users of BLU’s devices to only information needed to perform requested services. They also falsely represented that they had implemented “appropriate” physical, electronic, and managerial procedures to protect consumers’ personal information, according to the complaint.

Florida-based BLU contracted with ADUPS Technology Co. LTD to issue security and operating system updates to BLU’s devices. ADUPS, however, collected and transferred to its servers far more information than needed to do its job, including the full content of consumers’ text messages, real-time location data, call and text message logs with full telephone numbers, contact lists, and lists of applications used and installed on BLU devices.

According to the complaint, BLU and Ohev-Zion failed to implement appropriate security procedures to oversee the security practices of their service providers, including failing to perform appropriate due diligence of service providers; failing to have written data security procedures regarding service providers; and failing to adequately assess the privacy and security risks of third-party software installed on BLU devices. As a result, ADUPS collected sensitive personal information via BLU devices without consumers’ knowledge and consent that it did not need to perform its contracted services. In addition, ADUPS software preinstalled on BLU devices contained common security vulnerabilities that could enable attackers to gain full access to the devices.

After reports about the unexpected collection and sharing by ADUPS became public in November 2016, BLU issued a statement informing consumers that ADUPS had updated its software and had stopped its unexpected data collection practices. Despite this, the FTC alleges that BLU continued to allow ADUPS to operate on its older devices without adequate oversight.

Under the proposed settlement with the FTC, BLU and Ohev-Zion are prohibited from misrepresenting the extent to which they protect the privacy and security of personal information and must implement and maintain a comprehensive security program that addresses security risks associated with new and existing mobile devices and protects consumer information. In addition, BLU will be subject to third-party assessments of its security program every two years for 20 years as well as record keeping and compliance monitoring requirements.

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the proposed consent agreement was 2-0. The FTC will publish a description of the proposed consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 30, 2018, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $41,484.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

2005 Bankruptcy Reforms “Failed Miserably” to Help Students

It’s official, bankruptcy reform in 2005 totally sucked for people with private student loans. Academic research shows lenders won and consumers lost.

Here is the abstract from a paper in the Harvard Law & Policy Review by Alexei Alexandrov and Dalie Jimenez that looks at the data of how the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act actually impacted consumers.

Lessons from Bankruptcy Reform in the Private Student Loan Market

This article explores the effects of the 2005 bankruptcy amendments in the private student loan market. Overall, our findings suggest that bankruptcy reform failed miserably at helping students.

Using a novel loan-level administrative dataset from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and econometric techniques, we quantify the (a) effect of consumers receiving lower prices as a result of the law and (b) the demand-expansion effect of lower prices leading new consumers to enter the market. Overall, our findings suggest that bankruptcy reform failed miserably at helping students.

First, we show that BAPCPA did not have a significant effect on the price of loans for the lowest credit score individuals relative to individuals with higher credit scores. In other words, students became effectively unable to discharge their loans in bankruptcy, but did not experience a compensating decrease in price. Second, we do see an increase in loan volumes, but since we do not observe a change in prices and we find that the price elasticity of demand for student loans is not significantly different from zero, we do not attribute this change in originations to a price effect. It is thus easy to argue that BAPCPA was not very helpful to students: they lost the ability to discharge their private student loans, but received no discount in return.

Given these findings, we offer some recommendations to reform how student loans are treated in bankruptcy and to regulate private student loans. First, we join with many others in calling for an amendment to the Bankruptcy Code to treat PSLs in the same way as credit cards or other types of
unsecured debt are treated. That is: PSLs should be automatically dischargeable in bankruptcy unless the bankruptcy judge finds that the bankruptcy petition has been filed in bad faith. This is, we think, the simplest and best solution to the problems we identify.

Nonetheless, we recognize that rolling back the protection PSL lenders obtained in 2005 may be a hard sell politically. A number of bills have been proposed attempting to do just that and none have gained much traction. Consequently, we propose an alternative. Given students’ inelastic demand and the fact that PSL lenders are in a better position to know the true likelihood of loan repayment, the CFPB should implement an ability-to-repay rule similar to the one they have implemented in the mortgage markets. In other words, private student loan lenders would incur liability to borrowers if they originated loans without verifying a borrower’s ability to repay that loan. Because this verification is a complex endeavor, we outline some of the features of PSLs that could be packaged as a “qualified PSL,” a safe harbor to the ability-to-repay rule.

You can read the entire paper here.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

If My Student Loan Debt Was Sold Does That Restart the Statute of Limitations?

Question:

Dear Steve,

Old BOA student loan debt sold to Student Loan Solutions. State of residency: Maryland

If a debt was written off, last payment made was in 2009, the debt was sold in 2017, does the SOL clock start ticking all over?

Mary Louise

Answer:

Dear Mary Louise,

I’m not an attorney and for all legal questions, you should consult with an attorney who is licensed in your state.

The selling of a debt to another party should not trigger an update the Statute of Limitations (SOL) date. That being said, the SOL is a bit slippery and the exact date depends on the state used and your state law if it prevails.

Keep in mind the SOL is raised as a defense and does not prevent the attempted collection of the out of SOL debt. Things that will restart the SOL clock include an admission the debt is valid and yours or a payment of any size.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

The Best Paying Jobs Without a Four-Year College Degree

Student loan debt is crushing the dreams and futures of so many students. People are marching towards college with an expectation it will solve everything. The reality is Maybe You Should Not Go to College. Having a college degree can be a plus but keep in mind that about 75 percent of people with student loans never graduated from college.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes information on the best careers for people with only a high school diploma.

Even attending a local community college and obtaining a two-year degree which is very affordable can lead to good job prospects.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Defendants Who Took Part in Business Coaching Scheme Settle FTC Charges

Consumers were told they could earn income through online businesses

Five deceptive marketers and the companies they ran are banned from selling business coaching programs and investment opportunities, and from credit card laundering and telemarketing, under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The settlement order resolves the FTC’s case against key players in a work-at-home scheme that, operating as Coaching Department, Apply Knowledge, and other names, conned millions of dollars from consumers by falsely promising they could earn substantial income by purchasing business coaching services. Consumers lost thousands – sometimes tens of thousands – of dollars each.

The settling defendants are two of the scheme’s ringleaders, Phillip Edward Gannuscia II and Richard Scott Nemrow, Gannuscia’s wife, Jessica Bjarnson, Jeffrey Nicol, Thomas J. Riskas III, Dahm International LLC, Dominion of Virgo Investments Inc., Essent Media LLC, EVI LLC, Nemrow Consulting LLC, Novus North LLC, Purple Buffalo LLC, 365DailyFit LLC, and Vensure International LLC.

In addition to the banned activities, the settlement order prohibits the defendants from profiting from consumers’ personal information collected as part of the challenged practices, and failing to dispose of it properly.

The order imposes a $19,214,950.40 judgment that will be partially suspended when the defendants have surrendered certain assets, including $854,200 from Gannuscia and Bjarnson, $160,800 from Nemrow, $12,000 from Riskas, $2,000 from Nicol, and additional sums from their companies. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 2-0. It was entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah on April 27, 2018.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.