Medical Coverage and Benefits: Phone Scam Overview
The Medicare open enrollment period runs from October to December each year. During this period Medicare phone scams and phone-related fraud are at an all time high. Phone scammers mostly target anyone 65 or older or who qualifies for Medicare due to a disability or chronic condition.
Like the grandparent phone scam, the lottery phone scam, and utilities phone scam, Medicare phone scams prey on the elderly. Through a series of schemes related to medical coverage and benefits, scammers will solicit money and sensitive personal information from anyone they can get on the line.
Calls Targeting the Elderly
The medical coverage and benefits scam will generally start with a call from someone claiming to be a representative of your local medical center. Scammers will often use caller ID spoofing to make it seem as if they are actually calling from a medical center or hospital.
The fake representative will usually ask you for information regarding your Medicare coverage to ensure your plan is up to date. Many seniors will quickly give up sensitive personal information, thinking that the caller is an actual medical coverage representative. Sensitive information is then typically used by the scammer or sold onto third-parties and may lead to identity theft.
In other cases, scammers will pose as a local clinic and will call demanding payment for services you have received or for upgrading your plan. They will inform you that previous payments did not go through and ask for billing and account information. The caller may threaten to cancel coverage if payment is not received.
How Can You Stop the Scammers?
Seniors and other Medicare recipients should be aware that they should only give their billing information and Medicare number out to trusted, known, individuals. They should not provide this information to callers, and they should be wary of the fact that caller ID can be manipulated.
If there is ever any doubt as to whether or not a caller is who they claim to be and is asking for information, hang up. Once you've hung up you can call your doctor's office directly, or Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), to ask about payments and coverage changes.
Getting the Word Out
The best way to avoid this phone scam is by creating awareness about it. Many people do not realize the enormous amount of Medicare fraud that takes place every year in the United States - a reported $60 billion in 2015!
If you or anyone you know receives a call from someone claiming to be a representative from Medicare or from your local doctor's office and is asking for personal and financial information, it's best to just hang up and call your doctor's office or Medicare directly.
If you suspect Medicare fraud you should report it immediately to Stop Medicare Fraud. You can also help spread the word about medical coverage and benefits phone scams by leaving your feedback on suspicious numbers in CallerSmart's online white and yellow pages directory, or in our free reverse phone lookup app for iPhone.
For more information on how to protect your elderly loved ones, please see our guide on helpful resources for seniors.