We are currently in the midst of Medicare's open enrollment period, which runs from October 15th to December 7th. During this period, the amount of Medicare scams and fraud targeting seniors increases significantly.
Recently there have been reports of Medicare phone scams across the country, particularly in Nebraska. Using caller ID spoofing and local Nebraska phone numbers, scammers are able to impersonate Medicare representatives and trick many victims into giving up valuable personal information.
Anyone over 65 years of age, or who qualifies for Medicare due to a chronic condition or disabilities, is at risk of falling victim to this phone fraud. With this in mind, below are the four most common variations of the Medicare phone scam:
- Caller states you will lose coverage unless you join a specific prescription plan. Medicare Part D, which covers prescriptions, is optional and doesn't affect your Part A and Part B coverage.
- Caller asks for your Medicare number in order to update your account. This is identity theft. Until spring of 2015, the ID number on Medicare cards was the same as the cardholder's Social Security Number. This was a serious security issue for Medicare recipients, especially since you are urged to carry the card with you at all times.
- Caller asks for payment and billing information. Real Medicare representatives are not allowed to ask you for payment over the phone.
- Caller offers free medical supplies and treatments. These free medical supplies and treatments will often be very low cost or never received, yet your Medicare will still be billed large amounts.
In order to protect yourself or your elderly loved ones make sure you do the following:
- Know your plan. If you are unsure of your Medicare plan coverage, you can call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227. (TTY phone number: 1-877-486-2048)
- Check your monthly statement. Look for suspicious charges that you don't recognize and report them.
- Consult your primary care physician. Don't make decisions about new prescriptions and treatments that are being offered to you without first consulting your doctor.
- Don't trust callers. Anyone who calls unsolicited and offers medical services or products should not be trusted. The same is true for callers stating that they are calling from Medicare. Hang up and call Medicare directly.
- Guard your Medicare information. Keep your Medicare number safe and protected, just like you protect your Social Security number. Only share it with those you trust and who you know work for and with Medicare.
If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be a Medicare representative, run a reverse phone lookup on the number online before giving out any personal information. You'll be able to see if the number has been associated with any type of suspicious behavior. Chances are that the same phone number will have called millions of other people as well, trying to con money out of victims and steal identities.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of Medicare fraud, or you suspect Medicare fraud, you can report it to StopMedicareFraud.gov, or call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY phone number: 1-877-486-2048).