Medicareless: Scams on Rise
By Ellen McGirt

(MONEY Magazine) – About 11 minutes after the long-awaited Medicare prescription-drug cards made their debut in May, seniors started crying foul, as they were flooded with confusing and bogus offers. Even cold-calling identity thieves have tried to get in on the action. New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer (does the man not sleep?) has already settled with two non-Medicare-approved companies for misleading practices: Medadvantage in Southfield, Mich. And National Association of Preferred Providers/Family Care (a.k.a. NAPP/Family Care) in Houston.

There'll be more. Older people, always a popular target for scams, are often struggling to grapple with a program that even the policy pros on Capitol Hill don't fully understand. To tell if a drug card is really endorsed by Medicare, go to or call 800-MEDICARE.

But wait, there's more: If you already have a state- or employer-sponsored drug benefit, call your provider before you sign up. The Medicare folks can't tell you if a new discount program will affect your existing benefits. --ELLEN McGIRT