To criminals, Medicare card numbers can be more valuable than credit card or Social Security numbers.
Fraudsters can use your Medicare card number to file false claims for medical tests, equipment, procedures, services and prescription drugs you’ve never received. In some cases, your Medicare data can be used to steal your identity. With this information, criminals can open bank accounts and take out loans using your name and finances.
Common Medicare scams
Medicare scams are becoming increasingly common. Attempts to fraudulently obtain data tend to rise during Medicare open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. But it pays to remain vigilant all year.
Look out for fraudulent:
- Phone calls
- Representatives at in-person events
Criminals often use phone calls to bait victims. And the attempts can be far-ranging. A fraudulent caller might claim:
- Medicare is sending you a new card, or your Medicare number has been compromised.
- Your Medicare plan is ending, or you are required to switch Medicare plans.
- You are eligible for a more affordable prescription drug plan.
- You qualify for free products such as a knee brace, a cane or crutches, or you qualify for genetic testing for cancer or other diseases.
- You have a limited-time offer for free or low-cost products.
- You can sign up for a new plan with better coverage and lower costs.
- You qualify for a refund from Medicare.
Scammers can wrongfully access your personal or medical information. They might seem more believable because they know your legal name, birthdate, address or Social Security number. Or they may bring up a health condition you have or mention your doctor by name. These callers may even have some of your information and ask you to verify your Medicare card number or other information they can use to commit fraud.
In addition to phone calls, scammers may send direct mail, fliers or pamphlets to your home. These mailings can look legitimate, but they will list phone numbers and websites that lead to the scammers.
Representatives at in-person events
Sometimes, fake Medicare representatives attend health fairs or events at senior residential communities. Scam attempts will be similar to those listed in the phone calls above, but they hope to be more believable in person.
How to protect yourself
The best way to protect yourself is to remain skeptical of phone calls, texts and emails related to Medicare.
Medicare will only contact you in two scenarios:
- You have contacted Medicare and left a message asking for assistance. In this case, the person contacting you should know exactly why you called. They shouldn’t be asking you for unrelated personal information.
- You are a member of a Medicare health or drug plan, and a provider needs to contact you. If you used an agent to sign up for a plan, they may be part of this phone call. In this case, the caller should have all of your plan details. They should not be requesting unrelated information.
In both cases, Medicare will not attempt to sell anything or ask you to join a new plan. Remain vigilant by following these tips:
- Don’t provide personal information over the phone, in an email or to anyone you don’t know.
- When in doubt, hang up the phone. Anytime you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a Medicare representative offering a free product, new plan or financial incentive, end the call.
- Don’t click on email links or respond to messages you aren’t expecting.
- Say no to any time-sensitive or high-pressure tactics. Medicare doesn’t make limited-time offers or attempt to get you to act quickly.
- Avoid clinics or health care providers that offer free Medicare services or claim to provide medical services not covered by Medicare. And turn down offers of gifts or money related to Medicare coverage. These are red flags.
- Read your medical statements. Review your explanation of benefits and check the information against your notes. Keep track of the dates of your medical appointments, the health care providers you see, and the tests and services you receive. If something seems wrong, check your statement with Medicare by calling 800-633-4227.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you think you’ve given out personal information to a scammer, act quickly to protect yourself.
Use the following resources to identify and mitigate scams:
Senior Medicare Patrol
|Detect and report Medicare fraud||smpresource.org|
|Medicare||Report fraud related to Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage||800-633-4227|
|Medicare||Report fraud related to Medicare Part D prescription drug plans||877-772-3379|
|Office of Inspector General||Report Medicare fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement||800-447-8477|
|Federal Trade Commission||Report a scam, company or unsolicited call||reportfraud.ftc.gov|
Medicare scam artists make lots of money by fooling all kinds of people. There’s no shame in falling for fraud, so don’t try to hide what has happened. Contact the authorities to protect your finances and prevent future scams.