Medicare scams come all year long but tend to increase around the Medicare Open Enrollment (MOE) period that runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. CAUTION!
Medicare’s 60 million beneficiaries are a huge target for fraudsters who are looking to defraud Medicare or steal personal information. According to NBC, of the 2.4 million reports involving fraud, identity theft, and other scams sent to the Federal Trade Commission this year, 332,000 of those incidents cite government imposters from Medicare or the Department of Health and Human Services. Not only do these scams cost taxpayers over a billion dollars annually, but it can also hurt beneficiaries by opening them up to medical identity theft and/or false claims, and can put their health in danger by maxing out their plans that have annual caps on reimbursements for treatments or prescriptions.
How to Identify a Medicare Phone Call Scam?
Some Medicare scam warning signs include:
Aggressive or threatening tactics
Fraudulent sellers of Medicare plans may call many times throughout the day, leave numerous voice mails, or call you back even after you hang up.
Some use threats to gain compliance. For example, a caller might tell you that your Medicare plan will be canceled if you do not give them your information, or threaten to have you arrested if you don’t verify your identity. The government will not call you and threaten you about your Medicare plan.
Unsolicited phone calls
Medicare scammers may pretend to work for the government or claim to represent legitimate insurance companies. They can even change their caller identification information to make it look like they are calling from your local Medicare office. The government will not call you to sell you a Medicare plan.
Fake “identity verification” scams are an easy way for criminals to get your Social Security number, full name, home address, and other information that enables them to steal your identity. Sometimes they even ask for a credit card number for verification purposes, as a way to access your financial accounts. Medicare does not contact consumers over the phone or email seeking to verify their identities or get credit card information. If you’re not sure whether a call is real, contact Medicare directly on The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare online or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. You can ask if the agency has recently contacted you.
A few simple design tools can make an email look like it came from Medicare or an insurance provider. Scammers can even spoof Medicare email addresses, or redirect you to a web page that looks identical to the real Medicare page. Never give personal information to someone who contacts you via email, even if they seem legitimate. Instead, log in to your Medicare or insurance account to update your information and verify your data. Do not log in to this account by following links in email, since doing so may redirect you to a fake page.
While some Medicare plans and service providers may contact you through the mail, many scammers also send fake plan documents. Rather than directly responding using the contact information listed in direct mailings, research plans on the Medicare page or on your preferred Medicare Advantage insurer’s website. You can enroll in Medicare online or at a local office, so there is no need to enroll via mail.
As mentioned above, Medicare will never call you to gather information or give you information over the phone. If you get a call from someone claiming to be Medicare wanting you to verify something over the phone, it’s an attempt at identity theft. You shouldn’t respond to emails from Medicare asking for personal information. Medicare scam calls increase when changes to Medicare occur and during the election periods.
Main Types of Medicare Phone Call Scams
Medicare scam calls are the most common but these schemes can also happen via door-to-door visits, postal mail, or email. Scammers will do everything they can to steal your identity. In the past, they try to convince their victims to give their names, social security numbers, and other financial information. Since 2018, new Medicare cards no longer have SSNs. Instead, they feature the beneficiary’s Medicare number. However, that didn’t stop scammers from stealing information.
Here is the list of the most common and newest Medicare scams:
1. Medicare Call Scams
Telephone scammers are quite good at convincing people that they’re the real deal. That’s why many people find it hard to determine whether they’re real Medicare employees or not. They sound knowledgeable and empathetic. The first thing that scammers will do is gather potential victims’ names, birthdates, and mailing addresses. They will start calling and trick you into sharing confidential information. These people usually talk with heavy accents and broken English. Raise the red flag when receiving such a call.
2. Medicare Card Scams
CMS wanted to improve the beneficiaries’ protection against identity theft so it started to give out new Medicare cards in April 2018. However, fraudsters used it as an opportunity to scam people. As a Medicare beneficiary, you don’t have to update your information, pay a fee, or do anything else to activate your new Medicare card. Don’t be fooled if someone tells you otherwise. CMS will mail your updated and new Medicare card.
3. Free Medical Equipment
Another type of Medicare scam involves offering free medical equipment. A caller will offer you free medical supplies, equipment, and even medical check-up. They promise that Medicare will cover all the expenses. The only thing you need to give is your SSN or Medicare Number and your credit card number to cover the shipping costs for the free medical equipment.
4. Medicare Refunds
Scammers call Medicare beneficiaries to tell them that they’re entitled to a refund. In return, they just need to provide their personal banking information. Medicare won’t call you about refunds or ask for your personal information through the phone. If you’re entitled to one, Medicare will mail you a check. The first thing that scammers will do is gather potential victims’ names, birthdates, and mailing addresses. They will start calling and trick you into sharing confidential information. These people usually talk with heavy accents and broken English. Raise the red flag when receiving such a call.
5. Genetic Testing
Scammers also offer free or low-cost genetic testing fraud schemes. They will offer tests for cancer and susceptibility to other health conditions. They’ll tell you that you don’t have to worry about the expenses because Medicare will take care of them, but you have to provide your Medicare information. Whether it’s through phone, mail, or house calls, you should remember that Medicare doesn’t cover random genetic testing.
6. Medicare Robocall Scams
Robocalls, which are automated telephone calls, can also be used to trick Medicare beneficiaries. These tactics aren’t limited to taking credit cards or bank information. They can also be used to gather social security numbers, Medicare numbers, and other health plan ID numbers. If you receive such calls, don’t provide your personal or health information. You should ask for a call back number if you think or suspect that it’s a scam.
7. Coronavirus-Related Medicare Scams
Callers may pretend that they’re from your insurance company and sell coverage in case you get hospitalized due to severe COVID-19. They may also promote coronavirus-related products that promise to prevent, treat, or diagnose COVID-19. Other scammers may also pose as contact tracers and say that you have been exposed to the virus. You shouldn’t believe any of these, so don’t provide your Medicare and other personal information.
How to Avoid Medicare Phone Call Scams
Remember alert signs
Some important facts you must remember about Medicare so you’ll be less at risk of falling prey to Medicare scams.
- Medicare doesn’t make sales calls.
- Medicare won’t call to ask for your personal information unless you’ve given permission in advance.
- Medicare doesn’t send a representative to visit you at home.
- Medicare won’t promise to give you something in exchange for your Medicare number.
- Medicare won’t call you to enroll for coverage unless you called first.
- Medicare won’t call to inform you that your card has expired and they’ll be sending a new one.
Add your phone number to FTC’s Do Not Call List.
Nobody wants to receive unsolicited phone calls, especially from Medicare scammers. But there’s something you can do to stop getting them, and that’s to add your phone number to FTC’s Do Not Call List. You should call 1-888-382-1222 using the phone that you want to register for the Do Not Call list. It’s best if you register both your home phone and cell phone number. File a complaint with the FTC or Federal Trade Commission if you continue to receive spam calls 31 days after registering your phone number.
Report a Medicare scam right away, whether it’s you or someone you know who’s involved.
Report a Medicare scam to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant. You can also go to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to report suspicious activities. Report the Medicare scam call directly to Medicare by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
Say no to robocalls by using call block app RealCall.
If you get a cold call trying to sell you something, ignore it. Robocalls are usually illegal. If you get an unwanted call, use the realcall app which also avoids offers that come through text or an unexpected email based on a strong number database and continuous iteration of blocking rules.
Scammers are everywhere. You must remain vigilant in protecting your personal information. You shouldn’t give out details about your Medicare cover to anyone. Don’t entertain unsolicited calls, US mail, email, or even house calls from people who claim that they’re Medicare representatives. Report the Medicare scam calls immediately to the authorities and have your number listed on the Do Not Call list to stop receiving Medicare scam calls.