If you want to protect yourself and your family, here’s where you can learn about some common Medicare phone scams and what to do if you’re contacted.
The phone scams usually start as people age into Medicare or around the Annual Election Period (AEP), which is October 15th- December 7th of every year. The scammers try to get your information or financial information.
Fraudulent activity tends to increase around the Annual Election Period (AEP), which runs from October 15th to December 7th each year, when scam artists target Medicare beneficiaries.
It’s a good idea to learn about the most common Medicare scam and how to determine if communication from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is legitimate.
Medicare’s first rule of thumb is that Medicare will never call you unless you initiate the request.
Verification of your Medicare Number:
You’re eating dinner one night and your phone rings. You answer it and there is someone on the other line who says they are a Medicare agent. They say they need to verify to make sure you received your card. Or they might say that you need to return your old card and they need to verify the ID number. You don’t have to engage if you ever get a call like this: just hang up.
Replacing your Card:
We’ve also heard of Scammers falsely alleging Medicare is issuing new plastic or metal Medicare cards or black and white Covid-19 Medicare cards. The scammers state that you need to provide personal identifying information such as your Medicare number, birth date, or even financial account numbers to get your new card. Medicare won’t ask for your personal information or Medicare number unless you contact them.
Medicare replaced ALL cards recently to remove the Social Security Number and make it more secure. Medicare didn’t need to call you for this– they already have your information.
And you didn’t have to pay a fee for them to replace your card.
False Medicare Refund Claims
Says Adam Garcia of The Stock Dork, “Victims receive a call that they’re entitled to a refund because there have been policy changes. To deposit the refund, they will ask for your Medicare Number, a credit card, or your bank account information”.
Medicare won’t ask you for your bank account number. Don’t give your information to those scammers.
You can get counterfeit sales materials, offers for discounted prescription drug plans, or bills from an unknown doctor, medical supplier, or hospital in the mail. Many people will pay the bills.
To prevent this scam, keep records of dates when you receive health care services to compare against bills. You should also save receipts or statements. And finally, and keep track of quarterly Medicare Summary Notices to make sure you got what Medicare paid for.
If you’re unsure about the charges, contact the billing department or your insurance provider.
Another issue with mailings isn’t a SCAM in particular but involves “official-looking” mail.
Says Scott Maibor of Senior Benefits Boston, “While technically not a scam it skirts the law by tricking seniors into submitting information and giving permission to be contacted by a Medicare sales rep or have their information sold to one. Because Medicare rules prevent Medicare cold calling there is a requirement to have written permission. This is acquired by sending out an official-looking letter deceiving Seniors into thinking it came from the Government.”
They complete a business reply card and mail it back with a signature. That person can now be contacted and their information and permission to be contacted sold multiple times adding to their confusion by now opening themselves up to individual solicitations in addition to the more generic brochures filling their mailboxes”.
These confusing “official-looking” mailers are one reason we created this site. Instead of having your information sold to multiple insurance agents, we have created this space so you can find the agent or broker who can help you. Only ONE agent will contact you. You can use our selection tool or ask that we select an agent for you, but it’s always your choice.
Free Genetic Testing
This scam involves free cheek swabs or free genetic testing. The premise is that you’ll get checked to see if you might have a genetic disposition to get cancer or other illnesses. They’ll say that Medicare covers it and they need your Medicare card or other information to file the claim for you.
Sometimes you’ll get a testing kit in the mail without ordering it in advance.
Medicare doesn’t pay for random genetic testing so if you haven’t discussed this with your doctor, it’s a scam. Return the kit to the sender and don’t give out your personal information to these scammers.
Medicare doesn’t ever call or come to your home uninvited to sell products or services. If someone knocks on your door to talk to you about Medicare, politely refuse to open the door.
Legitimate insurance brokers won’t come to your door without you inviting them first. There are rules against this for people who sell Medicare Advantage Plans and Prescription Drug Plans.
For those states that allow door-to-door sales for insurance agents who sell Medicare Supplement Plans, you wouldn’t want to let them in either. The reason? The insurance agent is likely not contracted to sell drug plans. Suppose you work with an insurance agent who sells Medicare Supplement Plans but not Prescription Drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans. In that case, you may not be getting the whole story on what you need. (For example, if you do not get a drug plan, you could be setting yourself up for penalties later).
Medicare does not have door-to-door sales representatives.
Free Medical Supplies
This is where someone calls and pretends to offer durable medical equipment, They might offer to get you a medical checkup at no cost to you because “Medicare will cover it.”
But they need your Social Security Number or your Medicare Number to verify that you have coverage. And they need your credit card number to cover shipping costs.
In 2019 the Federal Trade Commission warned, “Scammers have been targeting Medicare recipients with a scheme to get “free or low-cost” back and knee braces. They’re calling, running television ads, and mailing letters to get people to give their Medicare information. But if you give them your information, they’ll use it to fraudulently bill Medicare for braces or other medical equipment. This uses up your medical benefits, which means you might not be able to get the right brace later if your doctor prescribes one.”
- If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare, hang up immediately. Medicare won’t call you with an offer like that. It’s a lie.
- You shouldn’t give your Medicare or other personal information over the phone.
- Check your Medicare Summary Notice to make sure you are only being charged for services you got.
- Talk to your doctor if you need a brace or other type of medical equipment. The sellers on the phone may not know what you need.
- Unless you ordered it, don’t accept medical equipment in the mail. If you didn’t order it, you could keep it or give it away as a gift. If you didn’t order it, you don’t have to pay for it.
- Learn more about Medicare fraud. You can go to CMS.gov or you can 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227). (If you call 800-Medicare you’ll need to verify that you are a Medicare beneficiary). Also, you can read the FTC’s article on medical identity theft.
Medical ID theft
Someone could use your personal information to submit fraudulent claims for Medicare and other health insurers without your consent.
Identity theft is usually covered by the bank or credit card, but this isn’t. If Medicare suspects malicious activity on your account, you could end up spending thousands of dollars to resolve the issue.
Not only that but your fraud could alter your medical record. For example, it could change your listed medical conditions, blood type, etc.
Medical identity theft can be severe.
Check your quarterly Medicare Summary Notices to make sure there aren’t tests, procedures, drugs, or equipment that you didn’t receive.
Avoiding the Medicare SCAMS:
We asked John Marsano, CEO & President at Inheritance Advanced about how to avoid these SCAMS. He said that “The best thing to do in these situations is to be aware of red flags and keep yourself informed of Medicare policies. No agency will ever send their representatives to your home for any service offerings. Keep in mind that Medicare does not have any premium advance fees. So if someone randomly shows up at your house or calls claiming there is a fee to Medicare enrollment, you should know it’s a fraudulent setup”.
What do I do if I’ve been the victim of a Medicare SCAM?
Marsano recommended an agency we yet weren’t aware of.
“If you have been unfortunate enough to be scammed, the best action you can take is contacting the Privacy Rights ClearingHouse. This nonprofit organization is California based and assists in dealing with ID theft”.
Garcia says, “If you think you’ve been scammed, your first step should always be to report it to the police, or relevant authorities. Clearly explain everything to them, and provide them with any information that can help. You should also report to Medicare about what has happened so they can support you in any way possible.”