With Medicare’s annual enrollment period approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of the many tricks scammers use to pry older Americans from their money.
In this article, I will go over some ways that criminals target Medicare recipients and what you can do to protect yourself.
Medicare Scams: How To Protect Yourself
Medicare.gov has some great advice on how you can stay safe.
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How To Prevent Medicare Scams
The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” readily applies when it comes to avoiding Medicare scams.
As a general rule, never give an unexpected caller your personal information, especially your Medicare card number or Social Security number.
You can also prevent yourself from being victimized by keeping up with the most recent Medicare scams at CMS.gov, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
You’ll also want to educate yourself on how interactions between you and the agency are supposed to go. Here are a few things that agency representatives will never do, according to Medicare.gov.
- Ask for personal information like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers “unless it’s needed to verify membership, determine enrollment eligibility, or process an enrollment request. Plans don’t need your personal information to give a quote,” it says on Medicare.gov.
- Call you unless you’re already a plan member.
- Offer you cash (or gifts worth more than $15) as part of a sales pitch.
- Ask for payment via phone or online (you’ll always get a bill, the agency says).
Now let’s talk about some ways to identify some common Medicare scams out there.
How To Spot Medicare Scams
The key to safeguarding your Medicare account is to be able to spot a scam when you see it. These can take the form of unannounced home visits or even phone calls.
Medicare will never visit you at your home. If someone pops up at your door claiming to represent Medicare, it’s a scam.
You may also get phone calls from criminals who try to get you to divulge your Medicare card number, account user name and/or your password.
“When you pick up, a scam caller usually starts chatting you up to engage you, asking you conversational questions to put you at ease,” the FCC says. “Whatever scam scenario follows, the caller is trying to get your personal information, such as your Medicare card number, your Social Security Number, or other health insurance identification.”
In fact, if you get a call from a suspicious phone number, respond as money expert Clark Howard does:
“If I don’t recognize the number as being from someone I know, I do not answer the call,” Clark says.
Once you spot a likely scam, the next thing you want to do is prevent it from hurting you and others: Report it.
How To Report a Medicare Scam
To report a Medicare scam, call the agency at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
You can also file a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint.
If you take the necessary precautions, you’re much less likely to fall victim to a Medicare scam.
Worried about getting tricked by a phone call? Always initiate your own call to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE. That way, you’ll be sure that you’re speaking to the real agency and not a crook.
Want more ways to stay safe? Read about these scams that cost seniors millions.