Most of these scams take place over the telephone, but some do occur via email, U.S. mail and door-to-door visits. Fraudulent callers typically steal a person’s identity by making up stories to try to obtain their name, Social Security number (SSN) or financial information.
(Note: Medicare used to use SSNs to identify beneficiaries and their health insurance claims, but CMS began distributing new Medicare cards without SSNs on them in 2018. Instead, these new cards feature a beneficiary’s unique Medicare Number, which is still a sensitive piece of identifying information that should be protected.)
Medicare beneficiaries should be wary of the following schemes:
- Attempts to “verify your identity.”
Someone calls to tell you that you must provide identifying information to receive a new or updated Medicare card. They may even tell you there’s a charge for the new card and request a credit card number as well.
- Bogus offers for “free medical supplies.”
A caller will pretend to offer durable medical equipment or a medical checkup at no cost to you because “Medicare will cover it.” The only catch is that the caller needs your SSN or Medicare Number to verify coverage and/or a credit card number to cover shipping costs for the free supplies.
- False claims that you’re entitled to a “refund.”
Another devious variation involves a caller who explains that, due to a vague change in Medicare coverage, you’re owed a refund. They will typically ask for your Medicare Number and bank account information so they can direct deposit the funds.
Identifying Fraudulent Callers
It is crucial to understand that telephone scammers aren’t always easy to identify. In most cases, it is best not to answer any calls from unknown or out-of-town numbers. However, technology has made it so that scammers can fake caller ID information by using spoofing devices.