Some "salesmen" can sound pretty convincing, especially if they seem to know a little something about you right off the bat.
But popping up recently are a couple of solid reminders to be vigilant about never giving personal information to any unsolicited caller or emailer.
Some Tricare beneficiaries have heard from call centers seeking personal information so that they can receive prescriptions for compounded medications, with the pitches touting the fact that the meds are covered by Tricare. The calls reportedly are coming from compounding pharmacy outfits.
As of Friday, Tricare slapped new controls on these medications — specialty prescriptions such as pain creams, wound ointments and erectile dysfunction treatments running anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $9,000 per prescription.
Beneficiaries face little or no cost under Tricare for these compounded meds, but they're very costly to the Defense Department, which funds Tricare.
While the new controls likely will reduce the incentive for these companies to target Tricare patients, the episode highlights common tactics used in such scenarios, starting with a cold call.
How do these companies find Tricare users? Not through any data breach, assures Defense Health Agency spokesman Kevin Dwyer, who added that Tricare and its official regional contractors will never call and ask you for personal identifying or health information.
"Beneficiaries should be wary," Dwyer said, if some unknown party claims or insinuates that they have a connection with Tricare.
Rather, these "call centers" use simple Internet searches to get basic contact information, then go from there. Tricare officials warn beneficiaries never to provide personal information, and immediately submit a Fraudline report to Express Scripts, Tricare's pharmacy contractor, at 866-759-6139, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Express Scripts can flag your file and reject attempts from the companies to bill for these meds.
And if you receive actual unsolicited medication in the mail, you can refuse delivery, officials said.
Tax scam alert
Tax deadlines may be behind us, but tax scams are not. In one bizarre scheme, individuals have received aggressive, nasty calls from scammers claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service, demanding payment for taxes owed.
They have threatened to send police officers to their targets' homes if payment is not made immediately. They try to gain personal bank account information. Scammers even have spoofed the official IRS phone number on caller ID to make it appear the real IRS is calling.
The IRS reminds consumers that it will always send written notice through the U.S. postal system of any taxes due, and will never ask for credit, debit or prepaid card details by any form of communication, including social media.
If you get such a call and think you may owe taxes, contact the IRS at 800-829-1040. If you know you don't owe, report the incident to the Treasury Department at 800-366-4484. For more information, visit www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.
Staff writer Patricia Kime contributed to this column.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.