Medicare fraud isn’t seasonal. The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period only lasts from October 15th to December 7th of each year, but targeted phone scams continue year-round. These cons are incredibly successful, costing taxpayers billions of dollars annually. As we move steadily into 2013, Medicare-related phishing attempts have been reported nationwide, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with these efforts in order to successfully avoid them.
In these instances, fraudulent callers will attempt to trick their targets into divulging sensitive information. They may say that a new Medicare card has been mailed out, and then ask for your checking account number so Medicare can deposit funds directly into your account. Other phone calls will ask you to verify your Medicare number (which is also your social security number) so that you can be issued an “updated” Medicare card. Another variation finds the caller stating that Medicare is ready to pay for medical supplies, an arthritis kit, for example, and requests your social security number for confirmation. No matter the scenario, the endgame is almost always the same: the caller is looking to gain access to your bank account, or steal your identity.
These bogus callers can often fool their targets because they usually possess some of their basic information: first & last name and mailing address, for example. This can potentially fool the senior into believing they’re speaking to an official Medicare representative. Some of the reported instances suggest these callers are very empathetic and knowledgeable, easily coaxing their victim into handing over their information. In other cases, the callers have been reported as speaking in heavy, foreign accents and broken English, making them slightly easier to spot.
Protecting yourself from these bogus calls
The first thing to know is that Medicare will never call you. In the rare occasion that they may, they will never request sensitive information of you. Never carry your Medicare card in your wallet. Instead, keep it in a safe and secure spot where you’ll remember. If you have to carry your Medicare card on your person, make a copy of it and black out all but the last four digits with a marker. These cards do not expire. You are issued one as soon as you enroll and it never needs to be renewed. If you happen to lose it, contact Medicare directly in order to report a missing card. If you ever question the validity of a phone call, tell the caller you would like to call them back and ask for their direct number. This will usually make them hang up. A good rule of thumb is not to give out potentially sensitive information over the Internet, on the phone or to unsolicited strangers.
Additionally, you may always contact the customer service number on the back of your Medicare card if you have any questions or concerns.
If you feel like you might’ve provided an erroneous caller with delicate information, or if you have been the victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
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