Estimates now put Medicare and Medicaid fraud at more than $100 billion in losses annually. If scammers can convince Medicare members to share their Medicare or Social Security numbers, they may be able to make fraudulent claims or commit identity theft. Scams may also try to sell you fake Medicare plans that are not affiliated with the program and do not provide any coverage.
Read on to learn why these scams are so popular, how to spot common scam types, and what to do if you recognize a scam.
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Why Medicare Scams Exist
Medicare scams exist because they offer a way for fraudsters to make money. In the case of one man convicted of fraud, the fake Medicare business he created made between one and two million dollars every few months by billing Medicare for equipment he did not sell. In another, more widespread scam, criminals were able to obtain seniors’ Medicare information and bill the federal government for COVID testing kits.
The wide variety of products and services covered by Medicare offer ample opportunity for scam artists to trick unsuspecting Medicare members into revealing personal data or enrolling in fake programs. However, the more you know about these scams, the less likely they are to succeed. Here’s a look at some of the most common scam types, including how they work, what they’re looking for, and how to spot them.
Medicare Scams to Look Out For
Medicare scams are often hard to spot because they seem legitimate. Scammers have invested effort to ensure they sound trustworthy and convincing and have taken the time to ensure they know the ins and outs of Medicare programs.
Three types of scams to watch out for include direct mail, email, and phone scams. Here’s a look at each in more detail.
Direct Mail Scams
Direct mail scams involve letters sent directly to your home advertising new Medicare plans or offering specific Medicare services. You may start seeing these letters in early October since the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare starts on October 15 and runs through December 7.
While providers can advertise their insurance products, they are not permitted to use the symbols for Medicare or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in a way that implies approval or endorsement.
Some indicators that the mail you have received is a scam include a sense of urgency that you must “register now!” or “call immediately!” or you’ll miss out on a great opportunity. These scams may also ask you to provide a phone number or email address or register for an online event. The goal of these scams is to seem legitimate enough that you will provide personal information, such as your Medicare or Social Security numbers, which scammers then use to defraud Medicare.
Unless these letters come directly from agencies such as Medicare, CMS, Social Security, or Health and Human Services (HHS), throw them in the trash.
Email scams see attackers sending messages that appear to be from Medicare or Social Security. They may contain subject lines that suggest your Medicare account has been compromised or suspended, prompting you to click through and read the rest of the email.
Scammers may claim that to avoid account closure and loss of health insurance; you must click on a link and fill out a form with your Medicare information. While the page or link leads may seem legitimate, it’s actually a spoofed website made to look like a Social Security or Medicare form. Once you enter your account details, they’re sent to scammers, and you may find yourself locked out of your account.
These emails may also contain attachments that fraudsters ask you to download. These files contain what’s known as malware, malicious computer code that can infect your computer’s system and gain access to your email and other applications. If you see an email that looks suspicious, delete it.
In a phone scam, you receive a call supposedly from Medicare or Social Security. The caller’s goal is to capture personal information by any means.
That means the scammer could potentially try to lure you by saying things like:
- Your Medicare card is expired, and you need to apply for a new one
- Your current plan has benefits you are missing out on
- You have over or underpaid your Part B premium
- Your credit card information is necessary to provide a refund or make a payment
If you receive this type of call, hang up and call Medicare directly. It is important to note that Medicare almost never calls members unless they are returning a call previously placed by the member.
DME and Genetic Testing Scams
Medicare scams targeting unsuspecting individuals by offering seemingly attractive deals on durable medical equipment and free genetic testing via fax or email have become a concerning issue. These scams exploit the trust and vulnerability of Medicare beneficiaries, who may be seeking affordable healthcare solutions. Fraudsters lure victims with promises of discounted or even free durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs or home oxygen supplies, and capitalize on the high demand for genetic testing.
However, these scams often result in individuals receiving substandard or unnecessary equipment, while their personal information is collected for fraudulent purposes. Medicare beneficiaries should remain vigilant, verify the legitimacy of any offers, and report any suspicious activities to protect themselves and help prevent others from falling victim to these deceitful schemes.
What To Do If You’ve Recognized a Scam
If you recognize a scam, there are several steps you can take.
First, make sure you do not share any personal information over the phone, email, or through the mail. If you believe you have been scammed, call Medicare directly and inquire about any fraudulent activity. You can also check your financial statements, such as credit card records, to determine if any fraudulent charges have been made.
Report suspected fraud directly to Medicare by calling 1-800-633-4227 and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at reportfraud.ftc.gov. To help streamline the process, have relevant details on hand, such as how you were contacted, what the scammer wanted, and what they tried to offer. This helps Medicare and the FTC build profiles of common scams to help keep more people safe.
Steering Clear of Medicare Scams
Medicare scams can be costly and scary, especially if scammers manage to get some of your personal or medical information.
To avoid Medicare scams, remember that official Medicare and CMS will not try to sell you something or ask you to share personal data over the phone. They will not ask you to rush into a decision or threaten to take away your benefits and will not claim you have a limited time to act.
By deleting emails, ignoring calls, and throwing away scam letters, you can reduce the risk of getting stung by Medicare scams.