Scam artists and fraudsters love seniors. That is because preying on and exploiting the vulnerabilities of seniors is how they make a living. This includes scams relating to Medicare.
Medicare scams work because Medicare is complicated, and health care is so critical to older Americans. Scammers can easily and convincingly lie and confuse seniors about what they need to do to keep their coverage or make other misrepresentations. They are all designed to get Medicare enrollees to give up personal and financial information.
Each year, thousands of seniors lose money to Medicare scams. And while those running Medicare scams will always try to come up with new ways to pick seniors’ pockets, here are some of the most common Medicare scams that enrollees and those who love them need to look out for.
Fake “Medicare” Representatives Knocking At Your Door
If someone comes to your home claiming to be from “Medicare” and you haven’t recently scheduled any Medicare-approved home services, don’t answer. Medicare does not and will not send any representatives to your home, period.
When these scammers come calling, they may try to sell you medical products or services that they’ll tell you are “covered by Medicare.” But they will also undoubtedly claim that they need your Medicare or Social Security number or credit card information to complete your valuable purchase. NEVER give out such information.
Any Medicare-approved service providers, such as those who provide nursing care, physical therapy, or annual wellness visits as part of a Medicare Advantage plan, will schedule their visits in advance and should never ask you for personal financial information.
Just as Medicare won’t visit you at home, it will not call you unsolicited either. If the Social Security Administration needs more information to process your Medicare application, it will first send you an official letter to schedule a call. Otherwise, the only calls you should receive from Medicare are those that you request yourself.
Although you may need to share some identifying information on a formal, pre-arranged call from Medicare (though such calls are rare), an actual Medicare representative will never ask you for your credit card number or banking information.
Scammers will often try to extract that financial and personal information from you over the phone through several different techniques, such as:
- Claiming that you need to “activate” or “renew” your Medicare card
- Offering free services, tests, or medical equipment
- Threatening to cancel your Medicare enrollment unless you update your personal and financial information
- Claiming that Medicare owes you a refund
- Suggesting that you enroll in a new “Medicare” plan or asking you to update your current plan
- Asking you to “verify your information”
- Offering you Medicare prescription cards
COVID-Related Medicare Scams
For con artists, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a golden opportunity to exploit people’s fears and uncertainty. Many fraudsters may try to impersonate real volunteers who go door-to-door to inform communities about COVID-19 vaccines. They may claim that they need personal, financial, or medical information as part of their vaccination efforts. Don’t fall for it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has noted that scam artists have been offering COVID-19 tests, Medicare prescription cards, or HHS grants in exchange for personal and financial details, including Medicare information. These services are unapproved and illegitimate.
Protecting Yourself From Medicare Scams
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued several tips for Medicare enrollees that can reduce your chances of falling prey to a Medicare scam. These include:
- Medicare will never contact you and ask for your Medicare number, Social Security number, or other personal or financial information unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
- You may get calls from scammers promising you equipment or services if you give them a Medicare Number or other information. Don’t do it.
- Medicare will never visit you at home.
- Medicare will never call you and try to sell you anything.
- Medicare can’t and won’t enroll you over the phone unless you called first.
If you believe that you were approached by a scammer or fell victim to a Medicare scam, report it to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).