AARP Fraud Watch Network: Coping with barrage of calls and emails

REGION – Scammers have a single appearing objective – making money. Spending money or wasting time is not part of the game plan. Technology works into their plan quite nicely. The barrage of emails and phone calls you’ve been receiving is testimony to this reality. Computers make thousands of calls or send thousands of emails at “virtually” no cost to the criminal. Here are some helpful tips on how to cope with this flood.

Unfamiliar calls appearing on Caller ID are best left unanswered. Let the call go to voicemail unless the number on caller ID is one you recognize. Either monitor the call or check the message, if one is left. If you answer the phone, hang up as soon as it’s clearly a scam or robocall. The new breed of scam calls uses technology that provides verbal response recognition. The automated call uses a natural voice that asks you a question and responds to your comment.

The voice asks, “Would you like to save money on your car insurance?” If you respond, “Yes,” the call is transferred to a “live” person. If you say “No,” the voice may say, “Please press 2 to be placed on our do not call list.” Any other responses may generate “Please repeat. I didn’t quite get that.” Just hang up! Never press any number when prompted, even one to be placed on a do not call list. That only confirms that your number is active. If you have registered for Do Not Call and still are receiving these calls, the callers are criminals.

Beware of email fraud and deception. Particularly, be aware of the Dirty Dozen attention getters: Congratulations, You Won, Surprise, Reward, Thank You, Free, Welcome, Attention, Abuse, Survey, Claim, Confirmation, Open Immediately. I tracked “junk” email collecting 12,000 messages since Sept. 1, 2020. The word Confirmation appears 279 times; Congratulation 620 times. I have 260 emails from Home Depot, many of which offer a $500 reward. My list includes being the lucky winner of a PlayStation 5 over 200 times. Verizon, Chase Bank, Kroger, Lowes, Bank of America notified me of “valued customer” rewards several dozen times but I have never shopped or held an account with any. Get the picture? Those awards, gifts, rewards, and thank you notes are either phishing expeditions to collect personal information or outright scams. Responding to any will be an invitation to more.

Unless you are now turning 65 years of age, the enrollment period for Medicare has passed. I responded more than a dozen times over the last three weeks to people asking if Medicare Advantage Plans were scams. The answer is no, but the high-pressured sales pitches did not tell everything, including the actual cost of the plans. New subscribers did not conduct thorough investigations and discovered that the “free” benefits came at a higher expense than anticipated. Most shoppers responded to advertising from one specific company and never engaged in comparison shopping. Think of this in the same way you would when shopping for a car. Do you comparison shop checking the features offered by different manufacturers or do you only shop one brand without really seeing what is available in the marketplace? Sadly, many who switched to new coverages only shopped one provider. Again, these plans are not scams; they are marketed insurance policies governed by government regulation and oversight.

So, what do you do if today you feel you rushed to purchase a plan you now feel is not for you?  Disenrollment can take place between Jan. 1 and March 31; you can switch Advantage plans or return to “original” Medicare and, if you wish, purchase supplemental coverage. You cannot move from original Medicare to an Advantage Plan, buy a Part D prescription drug plan, or change Part D plans. Before making any changes, do the research by visiting the Medicare website, You can also contact the government-funded Senior Medicare Patrol in your state by visiting their website,

Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, Vt.

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