Medicare scams can happen to anyone. But did you know these scams can lead to lost coverage and identity theft? Keep reading to learn about some scams to be aware of this year and find out how LifeLock Standard can help protect your identity by looking for your information in places it shouldn’t be and reimbursing you for money lost.
As more and more people become eligible for Medicare, the number of scammers looking to make a quick buck grows. According to the Senior Medicare Patrol program, Medicare scams cost Americans $60 billion per year. By knowing what these scams look like and taking steps to shield yourself from fraud, you can avoid becoming another statistic.
What is a Medicare scam?
How does a Medicare scam work?
The most common Medicare scams
1. New Medicare cards
2. Offers of cheaper or better plans
3. Refund or rebate offers
4. Medicare plan cancellation
5. Offers of free medical supplies or tests
What to do if you think you have been scammed
How to avoid Medicare scams
Help protect yourself from Medicare scams
FAQs about Medicare scams
Ready to learn more about Medicare fraud and how you can protect yourself? Let’s get started.
A Medicare scam is a type of identity theft (and common type of scam targeting the elderly) in which someone attempts to scam Medicare recipients and defraud Medicare by either stealing someone else’s Medicare information or submitting false claims to Medicare. People running Medicare scams may also try to get other personal information, including Social Security numbers and bank information. These scams are big business—the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association believes that medical identity theft and fraud account for tens of billions of dollars lost every year.
Armed with information they found online—whether they obtained it from a people search site or it was scraped and sold following a data breach—a Medicare scammer will contact people with fraudulent claims or offers of special treatment or access as part of a Medicare program.
When they call, scammers might:
- Give the victim an overview of what they’re offering
- Ask for the person’s Medicare or insurance information
- Ask for other pieces of personal information (like a Social Security number) as a way to “confirm” that the person is eligible
- Tell the victim that they’ll need to put down a deposit or opt-in to a monthly payment plan to receive new services
Once the scammer has a credit card and other information the victim provided, they can steal their identity, run up charges on their cards, and submit fraudulent claims to Medicare and insurance companies in their name.
While it’s easy to assume you wouldn’t fall for one of these scams, these criminals can be very persuasive and determined. They may call repeatedly, use aggressive sales tactics, and try to scare you by creating scenarios (like the loss of your Medicare benefits) to pressure you into complying with their demands.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common Medicare scams.
Medicare scams occur by mail, email, or phone. While the method scammers use to contact you may vary, many of the things they say are designed specifically to get you to comply, so be especially careful if something sounds threatening or too good to be true.
While new Medicare cards were released in the last several years to cut down on identity theft (the old cards displayed the member’s SSN), it hasn’t stopped scammers from calling recipients about Medicare cards. One common tactic scammers use is to offer you a new kind of card with a chip, even though Medicare doesn’t offer cards like that. Thieves may also try to convince you that your cards are outdated and will not work. They’ll then ask for personal information to “confirm your identity.”
Remember: If you ever lose your card or need a replacement, you can log into your Medicare account online and print a new one or request another from Medicare directly.
While Medicare is free for most recipients, certain supplementary plans may have a monthly premium. Thieves know this, and will try to offer people cheaper supplementary plans or drug coverage that Medicare doesn’t provide in order to get your information. Medicare Advantage scams are when someone tries to offer you a better price or expanded coverage on an Advantage plan.
Rebates and refunds on medical procedures, prescriptions, and equipment are attractive to anyone, which is exactly why scammers will try to convince you that refunds and rebates are available if you sign up for another service or confirm your billing details. While there might be some legitimate refunds or rebates out there, your healthcare provider should inform you about any you qualify for.
One of the most common ways scammers try to get your personal information is by threatening the cancellation of your Medicare benefits. Contrary to what these Medicare phone scam callers insist, unless you fail to pay your required premiums, there are only a few circumstances that would lead to the cancellation of your benefits. If you do give your Medicare number to a scammer who then uses it to make false claims, it could lead to you losing coverage.
Some Medicare scams offer free or steeply discounted medical equipment or testing (genetic testing is one of the most common types of tests used for scams) if you simply provide them with your Medicare number. Some scammers will say they’re from a company offering these products. Other scammers might say they need your number in order to get treatment for someone else and that the tests or supplies are a payment for doing so.
If you give them your Medicare number, you’ll probably never receive any equipment or tests, and if your number is used by someone else, your coverage may be canceled because you are the only one allowed to use your Medicare card.
The process for reporting identity theft and Medicare scams is fairly straightforward. Your state’s Senior Medicare Patrols (SMPs) exist to help Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers stop fraud, errors, and abuse. You can contact an SMP for more guidance on what to do if you’ve been targeted or if you are afraid you’ve been scammed.
If you’ve been the victim of provider fraud—when a provider claims treatment you didn’t receive or a provider you don’t see has made claims to your insurance company —report it to the Office of Inspector General.
Learning how to prevent identity theft starts by following a few simple guidelines. If you stick to them, you’ll limit your exposure significantly.
- Don’t give out identifying information: Your personally identifiable information (PII) includes your Medicare card and number, your SSN, passwords to sites you visit, bank account and credit card information, and even your mother’s maiden name. Each piece of information you keep to yourself is a piece of information a scammer can’t use to steal your identity.
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers: If you don’t know a phone number, don’t answer it. Legitimate callers will leave a message and provide you with the information you need to call them back. If you happen to pick up a call from an unknown number and the caller says they are from your insurance company, doctor’s office, or Medicare, you can always hang up. Check the phone numbers on your statements and call them back. Remember, Medicare won’t call you unless you ask them to call you back.
- Only let doctors view your medical records: Your medical records are private because they contain health information, but also because they are full of other information like your Medicare number, insurance policy numbers, addresses, and phone numbers. Don’t give these records to anyone but trusted medical providers.
- Don’t accept “free” supplies, tests, or equipment: Free supplies or equipment are almost never free. If you provide a scammer with your PII, they can then steal your identity or make false claims on your Medicare account or insurance plan. And if you exchange the use of your Medicare card for equipment, you could lose your coverage.
- Keep a close eye on your Medicare account: Check your summary notices whenever you receive them to look for any discrepancies or claims you didn’t make. One way to get ahead of fraud is to sign up for Medicare’s monthly email notices (in addition to the quarterly paper notices).
- Safely store and dispose of data: Keep any sensitive physical documents in a safe location like a locked file cabinet or a safe. Encrypt the files on your hard drive and don’t store any PII in the cloud. When disposing of physical documents or hard drives, don’t just throw them away. Use professional services that handle and destroy sensitive documents and thoroughly erase hard drives.
Even if you do everything right, it’s still possible for your Medicare information to be compromised. If that happens, it helps to have the expertise and protection provided by LifeLock. With LifeLock Standard, you get identity protection that scours the dark web and offers up to $25,000 in reimbursement for any funds stolen as a result of identity theft.
Medicare scams and other types of fraud can happen to anyone. Knowing more about how Medicare scams happen can help you stay protected. Here are answers to some common questions about Medicare scams.
Why are you getting so many spam calls about Medicare?
It could mean your phone number is not on the National Do Not Call list. These types of scam calls are also more frequent during open enrollment.
Does Medicare ever call you on the phone?
Medicare will never call you on the phone unsolicited. If you call them first, they may call you back, but they will never phone you to offer new cards or discounts, or to tell you that your coverage is going to expire or be cut off.
What can a scammer do with your Medicare number?
A scammer with your Medicare Number can file false claims under your name and run up charges with providers. They could also have your prescriptions sent to them instead of you.