The most important thing you can know to protect yourself against Medicare scam artists is that nobody from Medicare or Social Security will ever call you.
It seems like every time you turn around, there’s some new story about scam artists stealing credit card numbers, banking information, Social Security numbers, and more. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem about to end any time soon. And, with Medicare being such a confusing program with yearly changes, its beneficiaries are a prime target for crooks. However, you can protect yourself if you know what to expect and what to do when one of these Medicare scammers targets you.
The 8 most common Medicare scams
There are several types of scam calls one could receive related to Medicare and most of the time, the goal of these callers is to gather enough information that they can open a credit card or take out a loan in your name or steal your identity for other reasons. This can be dangerous, so it’s important to never give your information over the phone to someone saying they are from Medicare.
Scam calls often happen when you’re first eligible for Medicare, during open enrollment, or when there’s a change in the Medicare program or updates to coverage guidelines. But they can happen any time, so stay diligent and always remember: Nobody from Medicare will ever call you unless you specifically requested a phone call.
If you get a call that sounds like one of these listed below, it’s likely a scam. Block and report the number that calls you and remember, even if the call sounds like it may be real or legitimate, it’s better to hang up and call Medicare or your plan to double check rather than provide any information to the caller.
Assist and Help Center
You may receive a call from someone saying they are calling from the Medicare Assist or Medicare Help Center, asking you to confirm your Medicare or personal information to ensure they are speaking to the right person. Or, they may tell you they have incorrect information and need you to provide updates.
Remember, Medicare will not call you and ask for your information over the phone (unless you asked for a call, and even then, they will not ask for your Medicare information). Even if this scam caller threatens your coverage or benefits or tries to scare you in another way, hang up without providing information.
Becky from Medicare
These calls start as a robocall from a number that appears to have a local area code. The robot will state that you qualify for a free test, such as a generic test to prescreen for cancer, and ask for your information so that you can “prequalify over the phone.” The caller is hoping you’ll provide your information that they can use in a dangerous way.
Coverage is about to be canceled
If you receive a call claiming your Medicare coverage is about to be canceled unless you “verify” your identity, this is a scam. They will often ask for information like your Medicare number, address, full name, birth date, bank information, or Social Security number. If you refuse to provide the information, they may threaten to cancel your coverage or account. If this happens, hang up immediately.
If there are changes to your Medicare coverage, you will be contacted via postal mail.
Another type of reported scam calls is one trying to sell Medicare discount cards, which are in fact fake and a ruse to get you to share your personal information. In many cases, these callers claim to be from a reputable health care provider, including Medicare or an insurance company, which can make the calls seem real. They will suggest that you purchase a discount card that will save you money on prescriptions, medical equipment and supplies, or other services. However, these cards don’t actually exist.
Instead, the scammer is trying to get your information for identity theft, to make unauthorized charges, or to fraudulently bill Medicare.
Eligible for a refund
Someone calling you stating you’ve overpaid your bill and/or you’re eligible for a refund is likely a scammer. They may claim Medicare owes you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and they will ask for your bank account number or other information. Even if the caller threatens that you’ll lose money, don’t feel pressured to give up your information.
Free medical supplies
These calls are especially common if you have a specific health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The scammers would contact you offering “free” medical supplies, services, or even prescription drugs. They try to make these as personalized as possible to trick you into believing them. For example, if you have diabetes, they may offer free diabetes treatment supplies. Or if you have high blood pressure, they may offer a free blood pressure cuff.
Another example is the back brace scam, a common one that can be confusing because you may have even seen TV ads or ads online promoting the free back brace. These ads make it seem like a more legitimate offer, and many beneficiaries provide their information to get the free or low-cost brace.
A more popular example today is the offer of free COVID-19 tests. While Medicare does offer free tests, it will not call you to offer one to you.
In many cases, the scammer will use your information to bill Medicare, which is not only fraud, but it can use up your benefits. And most of the time you won’t receive any of the supplies you were promised.
Medicare cards issued after 2018 have a beneficiary’s Medicare ID number instead of their Social Security number. Scammers take advantage of this change and may make calls claiming the cards are changing again, offering to send you a new, secure, chip card. They may claim these new cards are more secure and you should switch right away. However, the only Medicare card that’s real is the red, white, and blue one sent to you by Medicare when you first enroll.
Another common scam is callers claiming your current Medicare card is invalid and you must be issued a new one, but in order to do this (and maintain your benefits), you must provide your personal information. Again, this is not real.
There is no such thing as “Medicare rewards,” so if you receive a robocall (or a call from a real person) claiming you were chosen to receive free products or are eligible for discounts, or offering other types of rewards, hang up right away.
How to report Medicare scam calls
If you’re receiving calls from someone claiming to be from Medicare, make sure to:
- Avoid providing any information to the caller
- Hang up right away
- Report the call
To report a call, use the Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant. Or, you can call the fraud hotline of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477.
You should also report the call to Medicare directly by calling 1-800-633-4227.
- ClearMatch Medicare: Find a Medicare Plan
- ClearMatch Medicare: Help Fight Medicare Fraud
- ClearMatch Medicare: Does Social Security Call You For Suspicious Activity?