Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott wants to keep you informed on the Medicare / Medicaid scams that seem to be continuously circulating. Sheriff Elliott needs you to be mindful of what to do when scammers are calling you to steal your personal information. Medicare scam calls are getting more sophisticated, so it is important to stay up to date with the newest methods scammers are using.
It may be hard to believe, but Medicare numbers are often more valuable to criminals than credit card numbers or even SSNs. They will use this information to submit bogus Medicare claims in the beneficiary's name to obtain health care services, supplies, or even prescription drugs.
Medicare scam calls are among the most common ways that criminals try to get your sensitive healthcare information. Fraudsters use phone number spoofing to trick you into giving up your healthcare information.
How Do Medicare Scam Calls Work?
Medicare scam calls occur when criminals call you pretending to be from Medicare or a legitimate healthcare insurance provider. They’ll often use phone spoofing technology to manipulate your Caller ID into displaying that they’re calling from Medicare, a health or life insurance provider, or a local phone number.
While Medicare scam calls often target older adults, anyone — from young caregivers to older beneficiaries — can be targeted.
Here’s how a typical Medicare scam call works:
- First, scammers use your personal information that they found online (usually after it was leaked in a data breach) to build trust. They could have your name, address, date of birth, or even your SSN.
- Next, they’ll create a sense of urgency to try and get you to act emotionally. Scammers might claim your Medicare card is going to expire or that you’re eligible for a special plan with lower premiums.
- Finally, they’ll ask you to “verify” your Medicare number or other sensitive information. They might also pressure you to enroll in a fake or misrepresented plan or convince you to send them money to pay for services.
1. Medicare is issuing new cards (and your old one is invalid)
One of the most common Medicare scam calls occurs when fraudsters claim that new Medicare cards are being issued and your current one is invalid.
But, to receive your new card (and maintain your Medicare coverage), you need to provide your personal information, such as your SSN or Medicare card number. Credit: Aura
Spot the scam:
- You received an unsolicited call claiming that your Medicare card is no longer valid. This is an immediate red flag, as Medicare will never call you out of the blue. If there’s an issue with your card, or if Medicare needs to contact you, you’ll receive an official letter from the Social Security administration (SSA) to arrange a phone interview.
- The caller tries to calm you down by saying that they’re “not asking for your Social Security card or bank account numbers.” Remember, your Medicare number is extremely valuable to criminals.
Another common Medicare scam call involves fraudsters claiming that your Medicare eligibility is about to be canceled — unless you “verify” your identity.
Once you’re on a phone call, the scammer will ask you for information, including your:
- Current Medicare number
- Full name
- Bank information
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
Spot the scam:
- The caller claims you need a new Medicare number and card but doesn’t know your current card number. Medicare already has your card number on file and doesn’t need to call you to get it.
- You’re asked for more information than you’re comfortable giving out. Medicare will not ask beneficiaries for details such as their SSN to “verify” their identity.
3. You qualify for free medical supplies
If scammers know that you have a specific health condition — such as diabetes — they might contact, you with a scam call offering “free” medical supplies or even prescription drugs.
For example, scammers can find your healthcare information on the Dark Web after a data breach. Then, they’ll call you to offer free diabetes treatment supplies, including blood glucose testing strips, lancets, lancing devices, and meter batteries.
Under the guise of offering, you free medical supplies, scam callers will:
- Try to get your Medicare number and other personal information.
- Ask you for your credit card number to pay for shipping or other associated costs.
- Use your information to over-bill Medicare for the materials.
- You’re offered free medical supplies or drugs in return for your Medicare number. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- You’re asked to pay for shipping or provide your financial information for associated costs. Never pay for medical supplies or drugs without an official invoice that you can confirm with Medicare or your health insurance provider.
4. You’re eligible for a refund for overpayment of benefits
A common phone and text scam used by fraudsters entails claiming that you’re owed a refund due to overpayment. Medicare scammers won’t hesitate to contact you at home and say that Medicare owes you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But this is almost always a scam.
Spot the scam:
- The caller claims you’re owed money from Medicare but needs your bank account number and personal identification to send you the funds. Giving a scammer this information could make you the victim of identity theft.
- The caller pressures you into giving them sensitive information by saying you’ll “lose” the money if you don’t act now. Medicare or an insurance company will never ask you to verify your information before issuing you a refund. They will certainly never ask for your banking details. Don’t feel pressured into giving up your information.
5. You’re pre-approved for a cheaper or better plan
Many Medicare scammers use telemarketing tactics to try and get you to enroll in “better” health plans. This scam is most common during the open enrollment period in the fall — when many people are checking their coverage options or enrolling in Medicare for the first time.
During these scam calls, a sales representative will claim that you’re pre-approved for a Medicare Advantage plan that has better benefits than a basic one.
Spot the scam:
- You’re called and told you are “pre-approved” for a plan with better coverage than your current one. If anyone offers you a Medicare plan, ask questions and do your own research. Many of these companies are fraudulent or are misrepresenting their benefits to try and get you to pay more.
- You’re contacted by someone claiming to be a Medicare representative during the open enrollment period. Remember, Medicare will never phone you directly without contacting you by mail first. Don’t follow up on unsolicited calls, brochures, or visits from Medicare representatives unless you have a previous relationship with them.
6. American Senior Benefits is calling
American Senior Benefits is a legitimate insurance company that is regularly impersonated by fraudsters or telemarketers. In this scam call, fraudsters pose as insurance agents with the company and offer special deals on final expense life insurance products. All you must do is supply them with your Medicare number and other sensitive information.
Spot the scam:
- Your caller ID shows American Senior Benefits. While there is a legitimate insurance company that uses this name, they most likely won’t be calling you. If you get an unexpected phone call and your caller ID says American Senior Benefits, it’s probably a scam.
- You’ve already added your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketing calls to numbers on the registry are illegal. The legitimate American Senior Benefits company is aware that they’re being impersonated and has issued a statement that they will not contact people who have listed their name on the registry.
What To Do If You Receive a Medicare Scam Call
Medicare and other health insurance scam callers can be persuasive, threatening, and aggressive. But it’s important to keep calm and remember that they can’t do anything to you without your information.
If you or a loved one gets a Medicare scam call, here’s what to do:
- Don’t give out your personal information. Never share your personal information with someone who calls and claims to be with Medicare. This information includes your name, address, Medicare number, and SSN.
- Hang up the phone. Trust your instincts if a call seems suspicious, and don’t worry about being rude. You can always reach out to Medicare directly at Medicare.gov or by calling the agency toll-free at 1-800-MEDICARE. Do not call back the number of the person who called you.
- Report the scam call. If you do receive a scam call, you should report it as soon as possible. Call Medicare directly on 1-800-MEDICARE or contact their fraud hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS. You can also report telemarketing calls to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) online at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.
- Warn your friends and family. Let your friends and family members know that you’ve received a Medicare scam call. If you’re on the same phone plan or in the same household, they could also be targeted by the same scam. Even if they aren’t, many Medicare scams are similar; and sharing your experience could help protect others if they get calls, too. For more help, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network at 877-908-3360.
- Always remember. Medicare doesn’t call you. You call them. Above all else, keep in mind that Medicare will not call you to sell you anything. If you get a suspicious call from someone claiming to be with Medicare, hang up.
According to the official Medicare website, there are only two reasons why you should ever receive a call from Medicare:
- A Medicare health or drug plan provider may call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join might also call you.
- A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE can call you if you’ve called and left a message (or received a letter informing you that someone will call you).
How To Block Medicare and All Other Scam Calls
Medicare scam calls aren’t the only means by which fraudsters try to take advantage of you over the phone. Here’s how to reduce the number of spam, scam, and fraudulent calls you receive:
- Familiarize yourself with common scammer tactics, so you are less likely to fall prey to a scam in the future.
- Don’t answer calls from unknown cell phone numbers — even if it’s from a local number or using a local area code. Or block known phone scams and spam calls.
- Whenever someone calls you claiming to be from a company, hang up and call the company back using the official phone number on the company’s website.
- Register your number on the FTC’s Do Not Call List.
- Ask your phone provider about their call blocking services (Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T).
- If a caller asks you to press a number on your keypad to stop their calls, don’t do it.
- Set a password for your voicemail so that scammers cannot spoof it.
If you’ve already given your information to a scammer, you could be at risk of identity theft or financial fraud. But the worst thing you can do is panic or blame yourself.
Scammers can be extremely convincing. Act quickly to minimize the damage they can do.
If you gave a scammer your Medicare number:
- Visit Medicare.gov’s Reporting Medicare Fraud and Abuse page for the correct contact information of the department you’ll need to reach regarding your situation.
- When you call, be sure to have your Medicare number ready, as well as any details regarding the scam call.
- Next, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov to file an official identity theft report. This is essential for disputing fraudulent charges that scammers could make in your name.
- If you’ve given personal information to a scammer, you need to treat it as if your identity has been stolen.
- Contact the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov and file an official identity theft report. Then, contact your local law enforcement and file a police report for identity theft.
- Next, freeze your credit report to ensure that scammers can’t take out loans or open new accounts in your name.
- You should also contact your bank to inform them of the potential fraud. They’ll cancel your accounts and get you set up with new ones.