Medicare Phone Scams: Protect Yourself and Elderly Family Members From Scammers and Identity Theft
Anyone over 65 years of age, or who qualifies for Medicare due to disabilities or a chronic condidtion, is at risk of Medicare-related fraud. The majority of this fraud starts with a phone call from a scammer. There are many different variations of Medicare fraud, but what's most important is that you or your elderly loved ones know the different types of scams and how to protect yourselves. This is true for all phone scams like the grandparents phone scam and Jamaican lottery scam, which also target seniors.
Medicare is a federally funded health insurance program created for Americans who are 65 or older, or who have certain disabilities that qualify them for coverage. There are four different parts to Medicare:
- Part A - is for certain types of health care, including inpatient care, nursing homes, hospice and home health care.
- Part B - is for certain medical services, including outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventative treatments.
- Part C - is a specialized Medicare plan that is offered via a private company that works with Medicare to provide Part A and B of Medicare coverage.
- Part D - is for prescription drug coverage.
In order to avoid fraud you should first know what type of plan you have. Make sure you check your Medicare card and any other insurance cards that you use. Call the phone number listed on the cards to ask for more information if it's unclear as to what plan and coverage you have. You can also check online at Medicare.gov, or you can call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227. For those who use a TTY phone you can call 1-877-486-2048.
What are the Medicare scams to watch out for?
Medicare scams are most frequent during the period of open enrollment, which is every year from October 15th to December 7th - but they can happen at any time of the year. For this reason, it's important to be aware of the different types of scams that are circulating.
These are the most common Medicare phone scams at the moment:
- You receive a call that 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.
- You receive a call asking 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 because you are urged to carry the card with you at all times. Whether you have an old Medicare card or a new one be sure to only give your Medicare number to trusted individuals; never give it to an unsolicited caller.
- You receive a call from a "Medicare representative" asking you for payment and billing information. Real Medicare representatives are not allowed to ask you for payment over the phone. Hang up on anyone calling and asking for a payment.
- You receive a call offering free medical supplies and treatments. This is a major scam. These free medical supplies and treatments will often be very low cost or never received, yet your Medicare will still be billed large amounts.
How can you stop Medicare fraud?
The FBI is working to stop Medicare fraud, but it is still a huge problem. In June 2015, the FBI arrested 46 doctors and nurses across the country who had stolen $712 million. They stole this money through fraudulent billing practices.
Though the FBI is fighting against fraud it's still very important that Medicare recipients do the following in order to protect themselves from scams:
- Know your plan. As mentioned before 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. As with your Social Security Number, keep your Medicare number safe and protected. Only share it with those you trust and who you know work for and with Medicare.
What to do if you suspect Medicare fraud?
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)
You can also report phone numbers related to Medicare phone scams to the FTC.
In addition, help warn others by downloading our iPhone caller ID app. If you don't have an iPhone, then first run a reverse phone lookup on the scammer's number here on our website, and then report it so other visitors know to avoid this number.