Shelby County Trustees Office: How to escape Medicare scams this enrollment season | Opinion

·3 min read

With the Medicare enrollment deadline quickly approaching on Dec. 7, many seniors and disabled residents may be rushing to sign up or update their coverage due to the barrage of advertisements telling them they are missing out on benefits. Those looking to take advantage of these groups also know this, hence the barrage of ads.

According to the Better Business Bureau, so far in 2021 there have been 57 reports of Medicare scams for a loss of $6,000 in Shelby County. We at the Trustee’s Office want the community to be aware of the resources and information available to avoid schemes that target consumers.

You are probably wondering, “Why is the county tax collector talking about this?” Well, as the banker for Shelby County it is my main responsibility to collect property taxes, and invest and account for the County’s money.

Regina Newman
Regina Newman

However, I also want to assure Shelby Countians stay on firm financial footing so the Trustee’s office offers many other services and programs to help and protect you as a citizen, property owner and consumer.

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Financial knowledge is vital

In addition to our community outreach efforts like Tax Relief, Tax Freeze, Bank On Memphis and the Greater Memphis Financial Empowerment Center, last year we received a grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to work on a plan to reduce consumer financial fraud.

This grant allowed us to put together an Idea Team consisting of a cross-section of government, business and community leaders to identify key consumer fraud activities in our community and formulate a strategic plan to help combat those activities for residents of Shelby County.

The first step initiative is to educate the public about financial risks and to help those who may have been victims of unscrupulous practices.

Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative will provide education and support in communities that are heavily targeted by predatory lenders, will work to enforce current legislation on the books and to help develop new legislation and consumer protections for all residents.

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Medicare can be challenging without the right information

We chose Medicare as our first topic because of the time sensitive nature of the signup deadline. “Wallet Warnings” will appear regularly focusing on important topics impacting Shelby County residents.

As we all know, signing up for healthcare options can be confusing and those eligible for Medicare are being bombarded with calls, mail solicitations, and commercials saying they can help. If you are unsure about the right option for you, there are experienced agencies we recommend that can help for free with no sales pitches or fees or profit making:

  • The Medicare Hotline (1-800-MEDICARE) or www.medicare.gov.

  • Shelby County Aging Commission (901-222-4100) which has trained SHIP volunteers to help you navigate and choose options

  • Tennessee State Health Insurance Assistance Program (1-877-801-0044) or www.tnmedicarehelp.com. SHIP will provide in-depth, one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance with Medicare.

Officials from the Better Business Bureau also suggest that you never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, or on social media. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, Social Security or Social Insurance number, and, of course, your health insurance number.

Information is power and most people don’t know what’s out there to help them; whether it’s property tax assistance, financial guidance or how to handle potential scams. My priority is to help in all of these areas and to help all our citizens be on firm financial footing. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Trustee’s Office for more information.

For Tax Relief and Tax Freeze, call 901-222-0200 or visit www.shelbycountytrustee.com.

For our other programs including the Greater Memphis Financial Empowerment Center (www.gmfec.org), Bank on Memphis, and the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative, call our Trustee Programs Coordinator at 901-222-0206.

Regina Newman is a Shelby County Trustee

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Stay away from Medicare enrollment scams by staying informed

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