Shady Advertising and Scams: Avoid Becoming a Victim

by Lance D Reedy

In this article I will discuss two scams that Medicare beneficiaries are being hit with. The first is the advertising that is hitting your mailboxes. The second is email and text scams.

What is a scam? Some definitions are as follows:

  • A dishonest scheme: fraud
  • A fraudulent or deceptive act or operation
  • A confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit, swindle
  • An illegal trick, usually with the purpose of getting money from people or avoiding paying a tax
  • An illegal plan for making money, especially one that involves tricking people

The objective of the scammer is to get money out of someone without a fair exchange of goods or services. Put another way, it’s taking money from someone that was not earned. It is done via artifice or trickery. Scammers are thieves.

I’m including “Bait and Switch” advertising in the scam box as such advertising is patently dishonest. The originators of such ads know what they are doing. They write the ad to bait people and then switch them to something else. It’s dishonest as the schemer does not reveal what is really being advertised.

Bait and Switch

Here is the language from a large post card that one of my clients received in the mail: I have added the numbers such as [1, 2, 3 and so on] in brackets.

Dear Jane Doe,

Our records indicate [1] that as a resident of [your] County, you may [2] quality for additional benefits that many on Medicare do not claim.

In addition to plans with more benefits, we will also check your eligibility for:

  • Adding up to $144 back into your monthly Social Security check (adding back to your Part B premium payments) [3]
  • Cost reduction savings from the Social Security Administration’s Extra Help program (worth $4,900 per year in extra savings) [4]

You may also quality for Medicare plans with benefits like $3,500 for routine dental work such as crowns, implants, and dentures. [5]

At SleazyHealth, we can check your eligibility to have up to $144 placed back into your monthly Social Security check. Please call (833) 555-xxxx (9TTY 7xx) today for your free, no obligation Medicare review. (Monday-Friday 8am-6pm CST)

[Disclosure at the bottom of the card in very fine print that you need a microscope to read:]

This is an advertisement for insurance. SleazyHealth is not connected or endorsed by any government entity. Eligibility for cost reduction savings is based on income verification. Not all benefits available in specific plans or regions. Visit and for more information. [6]


Let’s tear this piece of garbage apart.

[1] …..our records? They bought a list of names for people better than 65 in your county. In other words, they bought a mailing list! That’s their records.

[2] “May!” There is that pesky word “may. Maybe you do, but probably you don’t. If you are one of the 15% of Medicare beneficiaries already on Medicaid, then Medicare may not charge said person for his/her Medicare Part B premium. Those 15% are already on one form of Medicaid or another. It’s all based on income. Put another way, this only applies to 15% of the Medicare population. That 15% already has this Medicaid benefit. This will NOT apply to virtually 100% of the people receiving this card.

[3} “Adding up to $144 back…” The $144 is a 2020 number. The 2021 number is $148.50. This outfit couldn’t even bother to update their numbers. If they are sloppy here, where else do you suppose they are sloppy?

[4] “(worth $4,900…in savings)” People on Extra Help or Low Income Subsidy have reduced premiums or no premium for their Part D plan. Their copays are also reduced. They just grabbed this number out of the sky because it looked impressive. If you are not on Extra Health but think you may quality, call 1-800- Medicare (1-800-633-4227) to inquire.

[5} There’s that pesky word “may” again. SleazyHealth is referring to people on Medicaid that quality for more dental benefits. It is true that many Medicare advantage plans have a dental benefit. Usually, the benefit is capped at $1,000 per year, although I have seen one plan that brags a $2,000 cap. Implants are generally excluded from this benefit.

[6] This discloser is sort of okay. “This is an advertisement for insurance…” This is their mea culpa for running a bait and switch scheme. These guys are nothing more than commission chasers. I could write another article about how these boiler room idiots have deceived people over and over.

The bottom line: SleazyHealth’s goal is to get you to ring their call center. From there, you will be connected to any number of commission chasers who will do everything possible to drive a wedge between you and your current Medicare plan.

TV Advertising

Medicare related TV advertising isn’t much, if any, better. They throw out “learn about Medicare benefits you may be missing” of “get the dental benefits you deserve”, etc. They are baiting you to call their 800 number.

The Refund Scam

There are different iterations of this scam. The basic theme is that the scammer pretends to overpay the victim and then requests the victim to reimburse him for the excess payment. One of my daughters unwittingly got caught in one of these schemes.

My daughter while at college posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a roommate to share her apartment rent. A scammer answered her ad and strung her along with nonsense questions about room color and décor, and finally after much ado, sent my daughter an initial rent check.

Just after my daughter received the scammer’s check, the scammer contacted her and said that she wrote the check for too much and asked my daughter to please deposit it and then send her a refund for the difference. Of course, the scammer put on a big sob story about how this mistake is going to cause some sort of cataclysmic event in her life.

My daughter, being raised to be an honest person, promptly deposited the scammer’s check and cut her a refund check and mailed it off.

In these scams, the money the scammer sends is always fake. In this case, it was a phony check that bounced. Fortunately for my daughter, she kept a low balance in her checking account and the “refund” check she sent to the scammer also bounced.

In our next issue I will discuss over-the-internet refund scams involving gift cards.

Meanwhile, to help you better understand how these scammers work and to have some fun while you’re at it, I encourage you to check out professional scam baiter, Kitboga. Kitboga strings the scammers along for hours, getting them to think that they have a fish on the line. Here’s one of many YouTube videos titled “The Angriest Scammer I’ve Ever Called.” And yes, this is a “classic” refund scam. End