Scammers often use deceptive tactics to lure unsuspecting seniors into sharing their Medicare number. They may offer to send free medical supplies or genetic testing kits, or promote another sort of refund or incentive.
A lot of these health-care fraud schemes, which cost the U.S. government tens of billions of dollars in annual losses, are especially troubling because they prey on older individuals who are likely to be more vulnerable to exploitation.
Listed below are 4 protective measures seniors and families should take:
Guard your personal information
Solicitations from Medicare scammers can seem very realistic and are likely to pick up during open enrollment, which runs from October 15 through December 7. Scams can occur at any time of 12 months though, so seniors must be vigilant.
Scammers may attempt to make contact in a wide range of ways including telephone, email, postal mail, text messages, leaflets and fliers. Generally, they’re seeking to steal personal information reminiscent of your Medicare number, which will be used to file bogus Medicare claims. Often the senior has no idea these claims are happening, said Richard Scheff, a partner within the litigation practice group at global law firm Armstrong Teasdale.
Don’t reply to solicitations from firms you do not recognize or click on links or reply to emails from people you do not know. And should you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Medicare, hang up immediately, even when the phone number on the CallerID screen looks like it might be credible. Scammers can use a fake CallerID name to impersonate Medicare or one other known organization, in response to a consumer warning from the Federal Trade Commission. Seniors should know that nobody from Medicare will call or text them unsolicited to ask for money or to assist with enrollment or another service.
“Medicare is not going to contact a beneficiary unless the beneficiary has already made contact asking for some assistance,” said Elizabeth Foley, vice chairman of health policy and deputy general counsel on the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans.
The longer you stay on the phone with the scammer, the more probability you might have of divulging personal information. “They’re trying to achieve your confidence to get your information in order that they can defraud you or use the data to defraud the federal government at your expense,” she said.
Be careful without spending a dime offers or incentives
Scammers sometimes offer to send seniors durable medical equipment — reminiscent of crutches, knee braces, canes and splints — at no out-of-pocket cost to them, said Ari Parker, senior Medicare advisor at Chapter, a Medicare advisory firm. The fraudsters then persuade the unsuspecting seniors to share their Medicare or Social Security number and use that data to bill Medicare for high-cost equipment. To make the sham seem more real, scammers sometimes send some sort of lower-cost equipment to the recipient, however it’s still fraud, he said.
The offers can seem highly believable. One recent example, highlighted by AARP, is a scammer who claimed to have been referred by the Medicare recipient’s doctor. The caller asked if the recipient would really like to take a Medicare-covered DNA swab test to rule out cancer that runs within the patient’s family. To acquire this test at no out-of-pocket cost, all of the recipient needed to do was provide her Medicare number, the scammer said.
Seniors must also discard junk mail solicitations or emails purporting to be from Medicare. Spammers spoof Medicare and arrange fake web sites that look equivalent to the actual page in an try to steal personal information they’ll use to defraud Medicare, Parker said.
Check your advantages statements
One approach to detect potential Medicare fraud is to read your explanation of advantages statements fastidiously, Foley said. Many individuals don’t take this step in any respect, or they do not read the statements fastidiously, allowing multiple kinds of fraud to go unnoticed. One approach to combat that is to be looking out for charges for services or products you do not recognize or don’t appear to make sense.
If you might have questions on a press release, call The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency inside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that administers the Medicare program, at 1-800-Medicare.
Report suspected fraud
Call the Medicare number should you suspect fraud. Also contact your local US attorney’s office and the state attorney general’s office, Foley said. You too can file a criticism online on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
When you do end up on this position, give yourself a break. Scammers are superb at what they do they usually reel in lots of unsuspecting seniors. “There shouldn’t be any shame attached to this,” Foley said.