Beware deceptive calls about your Medicare

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The government started mailing new Medicare cards in April 2018 and they expect to have the process completed by April 2019. We’ve received some calls from local readers asking when they can expect their card to arrive in the mail.

The website https://www.medicare.gov/newcard allows you to type in your email address so you’ll get an email when your card has been mailed.

Remember that the government will not contact you by phone, asking you to verify your personal information. Whatever you do, don’t give out any information to anyone claiming to be from the Social Security office unless you specifically asked someone to contact you directly.

This, unfortunately, has not stopped some unscrupulous independent company representatives from using vague language to get the cardholder to believe that they are getting a call from the benefits department at the Social Security office. These callers are claiming to have received a request from the Medicare cardholder for additional information.

These independent insurance companies do this to get the cardholder to call them back with the hopes of selling them a supplemental Medicare insurance policy. Be on your guard and don’t fall for these types of deceptive calling practices.

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OPEN ENROLLMENT TIME: The open enrollment period for Idaho health care coverage is Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. For those who work for small businesses that don’t offer health care coverage, or if you need to buy your own plan, check out your choices at Your Health Idaho, often referred to as the exchange. Here’s their website: https://www.yourhealthidaho.org/

If you’re single and your adjusted gross income is less than $48,560 a year, or a family of four with income less than $100,400, you may qualify for a tax credit if you purchase insurance through the exchange. It’s worth checking out.

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CAN AN HOA DO THAT? Moving into an HOA-controlled community is something that should be done cautiously, as HOAs yield tremendous power.

An HOA’s goal is to keep neighborhood property values up by enforcing covenants and bylaws. They are also tasked with maintaining the common areas and collecting the monies to do so. Residents who violate the governing documents may be fined or sued to force compliance. Worse still is the possibility that the owner may be forced to pay the legal expenses incurred by the HOA!

But some wonder if their HOA is really allowed to tell them what colors they can paint their house, what plants they can grow in their front yard, how many pets they can own and whether or not they can rent out their home. If the HOA governing documents give the association this authority, then yes they can.

Before you close on a home in an HOA community, read the governing documents and decide if you can abide by them. If you can’t then that neighborhood isn’t for you. These documents are part of your real estate contract and once you purchase the home you are agreeing to pay the fees and abide by the rules of the HOA.

A great example happened when my partner and I were looking for our home in Cd’A. We found a home we both liked. Unfortunately, after reading the covenants, we discovered the HOA allowed only two dogs per household while we had three at that time. We quickly eliminated that house as a possibility as we did not think it wise to buy the home, then ask the HOA to make an exception for us. HOAs hate granting exemptions as that sets a precedent, which means they would have to grant the same exemption to anyone else who made the same request.

The bottom line is BEFORE you complete the transaction on a house, make sure you find out if the neighborhood is controlled by an HOA. If so, ask your Realtor or title company for a copy of the documents. Some HOAs post this information online but many do not.

The Idaho Legislature has gotten involved as more complaints about HOAs crop up. If you find yourself in an HOA dispute, check out this website: https://www.hopb.co/idaho/

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POSSIBLE GAS SCAM: We’ve warned you about the skimmers that scammers put on the gas pumps, but here’s a new one. A tip came in from an avid reader of our column warning us of a local scam he encountered the last two Fridays at the Exxon gas station on the corner of Seltice and Pleasant View in Post Falls.

Our reader was approached by a suspicious character (a different person each time) while he was either heading to or from his car to get gas. The possible scammer had a down-on-his-luck story about needing money and was offering to sell all his gold jewelry for all the cash the customer had on him.

This smart consumer noticed the bling of the jewelry didn’t disguise the fact that he believed it all to be fake and refused to give up his cash. The potential scammer quickly got in his car and drove across the street to another gas station to try the same trick with another unsuspecting victim.

Don’t be fooled by this scam. Keep your cash and let the scammer keep his crap. Be careful out there and stay aware.

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We have many more tips and interesting cases that we’re working on as The CDA Press Consumer Guy and Consumer Gal. Call us at (208) 699-0506 or (208) 274-4458, or email us at billbrooksadvocate@gmail.com or terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com. Please include your name and a phone number or email. We are available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Terri Dickerson is a writer and consumer advocate and Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate who lives in Coeur d’Alene. Bobbi Brooks is the proofreader.

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