Subscriber advice on credit unions, identity theft, giving your Medicare number to doctors, reporting fraudulent emails in Canada, and passwords: Internet ScamBusters #234
OK, on to the content of today's issue:
We've been collecting a boatload of great advice from subscribers, and today we'll share some of the best suggestions with you. You'll find ideas about:
- Credit unions and credit card fees
- More on giving out your Social Security number in doctors' offices
- More password advice
If you're on Medicare or you have parents or grandparents who are on Medicare, be sure to check out the second item -- it's important.
Time to get going...
Credit unions and credit card fees
We got a LOT of feedback on our article on "How To Avoid Extra Credit Card Fees and Surcharges."
One interesting suggestion comes from Steve:
I'm a member of two credit unions. The only cost to me is maintaining money in their savings account. $25 for one and $50 for the other.
I have credit cards from both. Zero monthly or annual fees, zero transfer fees and an interest rate well below average: 11.5% currently.
But the best part is automatic payment of the monthly minimum, guaranteed to arrive before the due date.
I keep enough money in my account to cover two months of minimums, but if that runs out, they will loan me the money from a signature loan, and still avoid late fees.
They also guarantee no overdraft fee, because they will similarly move or loan money from other accounts, and email me that they have done that.
Because a credit union is member owned, there are no shareholders to be greedy and no profit motive. Their only interest is to make the members (that includes me) happy.
Many credit unions now have "Open Membership" which means anyone can join.
More on giving out your Social Security number in doctors' offices
The most important point comes from Wayne:
The Medicare number on file in a doctor's office is your SS number, so any of us on Medicare must give our SS number.
Keep up the great work -- I learn something from each newsletter, and at 72, I thought I knew most everything by now.
Pat adds some more details:
There are reasons a medical office would require a SSN. If a person is using any government agency to pay for services, the SSN is required. Believe it or not, this is for our protection. Medicare and Medicaid fraud alone costs the US billions.
Plus, there are literally hundreds of other federal, state, regional, and local government connected initiatives for health insurance and provider-payment programs. These programs have a legitimate reason for asking for the SSN because they must use it to be reimbursed.
Not everyone out there is trying to think of new ways to steal our identities.
Having said that, it pays to be careful. Always ask WHY they need the number and how they use that number in connection to your care.
Finally, Otto makes a useful suggestion about how to minimize your Medicare number being photocopied:
When you reach age 65 and have Medicare for your primary health insurance, you will find that your Medicare identity number is your Social Security number with a letter "A" appended.
To prevent my Medicare number from being photocopied by hospitals and other medical providers, I scan all of the necessary identification cards with my flatbed scanner and print them in glorious color on 8-½" x 11" paper, which I provide to those requesting my medical insurance identity cards. Problem solved.
Editor's note: We appreciate all the feedback on this issue -- it's a really important one. Congress is currently considering several bills that would require that alternative numbers be used for Medicare. We're not holding our breath, though. 😉
Our recommendation: Make two photocopies of your Medicare card (on a non-digital or other "safe" photocopier), and on one copy, use a black marker to cover all but the last four digits. During the first visit, you can show the unmarked photocopy. From then on, carry only the marked copy in your wallet rather than the original. This doesn't solve the problem, but it can help.
More password advice
We've gotten so much valuable feedback on computer passwords from subscribers.
Here one more suggestion we think you'll find valuable from Felicia:
Feel free to link to my guide to passwords and password security.
Your readers may also find other articles on my website useful.
Editor's Note: Thanks, Felicia!
That's a wrap for this issue. Wishing you a great week!