“This is Shelly at the Medicare enrollment center, on a recorded line, and I see here that in the past you asked about your Medicare supplement coverage…”
This introduction may sound legitimate, but it is actually a sample Medicare scam audio script provided by the Federal Communications Commission.
Medicare is the federal health insurance that covers Americans age 65 and older along with certain younger people with disabilities and those in the end stages of kidney disease. It provides critical health care services that are top of mind for seniors, and scammers take advantage of this vulnerability.
Ari Parker, attorney and senior Medicare adviser for Chapter, a resource for people seeking information about Medicare coverage, said scammers target seniors because they are less tech-savvy and because they accumulate savings for the entire family. life, along with your credit history. “It’s a more lucrative population to target,” he said.
In 2020, Americans over the age of 65 lost an average of $9,175 to scams, the FBI reported. One critical thing for Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers to remember is that just because someone says they’re working with Medicare doesn’t mean they are.
Fraudsters “use Medicare’s strong brand name to their advantage. Anyone who has Medicare respects it,” said Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim support for AARP, an advocacy group for people 50 and older. you listen and pay a little more attention.”
Nofziger estimated that AARP’s fraud helpline receives about 500 phone calls a day from people who experience or report Medicare fraud.
“BBeing a victim of a scam has nothing to do with your level of intelligence, it has to do with…actually, your emotional triggers,” Nofziger said. “Something very important for so many people is their Medicare, because that way they stay healthy and that way they have access to doctors and medicines in this country. When someone threatens them with their ability to stay healthy, they’re not thinking cognitively, they’re thinking emotionally, they’re thinking fearfully.”
To overcome the cloud of anxiety that a scammer can create, it’s important to remember the facts of how Medicare communicates with members and beneficiaries. These are major warning signs that the Medicare offer you’re hearing from a so-called “Medicare representative” is actually a scam.
1. If Medicare contacts you without your request, be vigilant. Real Medicare does not need to call you to verify your information.
If you get a call, email, or knock on the door from someone claiming to work with Medicare, be suspicious.
Medicare will not contact you to verify your information. As the FCC website says, “Medicare will never call you uninvited asking you to give us personal or private information.”
“Being the victim of a scam has nothing to do with your level of intelligence, it has to do with…really your emotional triggers.”
– Amy Nofziger, Director of Fraud Victim Support at AARP
The only two reasons someone from Medicare would call you is if you first called the official 1-800-MEDICARE line and asked for someone to call you back or if you are already a member of a Medicare health or drug plan. In that case, “the agent who helped you enroll in a Medicare plan may call you,” says the Medicare.gov website.
Beware of emails claiming to be from Medicare. Parker noted that it’s not typical for Medicare to send emails to beneficiaries because it typically communicates information through a person’s Medicare.gov account, where claims and coverage can be viewed.
2. Beware of offers of free medical supplies and other gifts that try to lure you in exchange for your Medicare number. This is a number that you should treat as if it were your Social Security number.
If you’re offered free tests or medical supplies, but the contact “just needs to get your Medicare card number first,” that’s another red flag. You should be wary of anyone you don’t know asking you to share your unique 11-digit Medicare number, which is how Medicare claims are submitted.
“Medicare is not going to ask for your Medicare number, trust me. Medicare has their number,” Nofziger said.
Nofziger said a typical scenario would include a Medicare scammer telling an older person, “Your doctor told us you had knee pain” and offering free medical supplies, which people often fall for because “Tell me someone even older than 45 years without I have no knee pain, ”he said.
In this popular fraudulent scheme, the scammer prescribes equipment such as a knee brace and bills Medicare once they have your unique Medicare number. But getting unnecessary medical supplies can exhaust your Medicare benefits and leave you unable to get the future supplies and services you really need covered later. And getting medical supplies that don’t fit you properly can also cause you physical harm over time, Nofziger said.
“If someone is using your Medicare number for medical identity theft, maybe to get treatment or surgery, that goes in your Medicare number,” Nofziger added. “Let’s say you have an emergency and they ask for your number, and then they say ‘You already got this care. They charged you for this.’”
Parker said the offer of free medical supplies or “a free medical checkup” is the most common type of Medicare scam he sees.
Another common tactic by scammers, he said, is for a caller to tell someone they are “eligible for a refund due to a change in coverage.” The caller then asks for the person’s Medicare number and banking information.
3. Beware of people who are not your doctor giving you health advice in exchange for your personal information.
The Medicare website warns people not to allow “anyone except your doctor or other Medicare providers to review your medical records or recommend services.”
That’s because common Medicare fraud is when a caller may claim to be a genetic testing company that is working with your doctor and your doctor is concerned that you have a common medical history, such as cancer in your family, Nofziger said.
Then the caller usually says that they will send a genetic test to help you and your doctor determine a treatment plan; they just need to verify your Medicare number or Social Security number first. “They won’t say ‘Can I have it?’ They’ll say, ‘Can I confirm?’ You already think they have it because the doctor gave it to them,” Nofziger said.
The scam preys on people’s health fears to get them to listen. “It’s almost a bit of reciprocity there: ‘Give me your Medicare number, I’m going to save your life,'” Nofziger added.
Nofziger noted that most of the Medicare fraud his team sees stems from phone calls. To avoid getting scammed, he recommends sending any phone call from an unknown number to voicemail. On Apple and Android smartphones, there are features that will screen calls for you, such as a setting that will mute calls from numbers that aren’t in your contacts.
“When you’re listening to a voice message, you’re not with that person in that moment. Then you can decide if he’s going to call them back or he’s going to listen to the red flags and then remove them,” she said.
If someone calls asking for your personal information, or threatens your Medicare coverage, you can also hang up and call the official Medicare number 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to report it.