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OPINION: Beware of scams

by Robert Box | October 6, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

Oh my, there goes my phone again; and my carrier says it is probably a scam. Yep! It is, my sixth one today, and it's only early evening. I have to admit to having some bad negative thoughts about these scams. They come from everywhere and apparently there is nothing any of us can do about them. Most originate overseas, which makes them the problem of our national government, so reporting them to our local authorities is an act of futility. Since it costs our government a huge amount of money to trace these down, the scam normally has to involve at least half a million dollars before anyone pursues the scammer.

These calls come from out of the country, but they "robo" out of either Southern Florida or somewhere in Nevada; but as you well know by now, the area codes may indicate our next door neighbor. Don't you wish for the power to scam these people back and throw them in jail?

There are a lot of good people in our country who are trying to make ends meet without having someone trick them out of their money. Frankly, there have been a lot of people right here in Bella Vista and Northwest Arkansas who have been bilked out of thousands of dollars. I recently heard of one person in Bella Vista who lost over $50,000. Someone wants to fix your roof, but when you pay for the job up front, you never see the person again. Someone wants to make sure you get all of your Social Security benefits, but when you explore the situation, what they really want is your Social Security number so they can empty your bank account.

It seems like someone is always trying to work some kind of Medicare scam these days. NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR MEDICARE NUMBER! If you do, you're hooked. If you receive a test kit through the mail, don't accept it unless you or your doctor ordered it personally. Just refuse to accept it and send it back. If someone wants to do a genetic test on you and offers a quick cheek swab test at a community event, ignore it. If you want one, get it from your doctor.

And now there's Becky from Medicare! She has a really sweet voice and claims to be your patient advocate working closely with Medicare. Yes, some insurance companies really do have patient advocate personnel, but not for over the phone solicitation. Beck would have us believe that Medicare is offering precautionary genetic cancer screening for people over fifty and everyone should be tested, especially since these are covered by insurance. Oh, and if you do not hurry, Medicare may label you ineligible for coverage. Becky ends by saying, "Let me refer you to a specialist." When checked, none of these specialists knew anything about genetic testing except what they had written down for them.

DON'T SUCKER FOR THE BECKY SCAM! This is the number one scam going around in our country right now, and it really is a scam. The people doing this scam don't want you to talk with your doctor. What they want is your Medicare number. Then, they may sell your number to other scammers who fraud you. Did you know that around $40 billion of Medicare's budget during 2020 went to scammers or inappropriate billers?

It is very important for everyone to use a little old common sense when receiving these scam calls. If your phone company says it is probably a scam, it probably is a scam. Don't answer it. If it is important, they will leave a voice mail and you can call them later. If someone tries to get your money up front for a project, forget about using that person or company. Reputable dealers expect to be paid after the job is completed. If you want to help people, give to a reputable charity (How about your church?) and ask for a receipt. Don't just give because someone sounds nice and desperate.

I don't know if it's true or not, but I have heard that the beggars standing at street corners actually make a pretty good living, especially if they can claim to be veterans. Did you know that we have numerous churches who provide a food pantry for people who are hungry? And some of these churches offer a free lunch every day of the week to needy folks. You don't have to stand on the corner and beg.

Be cautious! Be aware that there are a lot of people in our world who are dedicated to relieving you of the money you need to carry on with your life. Be generous, but don't be foolish.

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Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 29 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed in the article are the opinions of the author and not the agencies he serves.

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