Health care scams are becoming an increasingly common problem. In the US alone, these scams are estimated to cost individuals and insurers billions of dollars every year. According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), Medicare fraud alone causes $60 billion annually in losses. With medical costs rising and unscrupulous criminals preying on vulnerable people, it’s more important than ever to be aware of how to identify these scams so that you and your loved ones can avoid becoming victims.
Health care scams and health care fraud can come in many forms, such as products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure diseases or other health conditions but are not proven safe and effective for those uses, or delays in getting proper diagnosis and treatment. One of the most common scams is around Medicare.
Medicare fraud is a serious problem that affects many senior citizens. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides coverage to millions of seniors and disabled individuals. Unfortunately, it’s also a target for fraudsters who want to exploit seniors. It involves perpetrators of various types of scams targeting seniors in an attempt to steal their money or personal information. Unfortunately, scammers are capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of seniors now more than ever.
The Medicare scams often involve criminals posing as legitimate Medicare representatives and attempting to get personal information from unsuspecting seniors. These criminals may call and ask for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information. Once they have the personal information, they use it to commit identity theft or open fraudulent bank accounts. Some scammers even bill Medicare for unnecessary medical services or supplies that were never provided.
To protect yourself from this scam, it’s important to remember that Medicare will never contact you to request personal information. If you receive a call or email asking for your personal information, hang up immediately and report it to the authorities. We have listed numbers below. Additionally, always be wary of any offers that seem too good to be true and never give out your financial or personal information over the phone or online.
Solicitations from Medicare scammers can seem very realistic and tend to pick up during open enrollment. Scams can happen at any time of year though, so seniors need to be vigilant. They can be promoted in a variety of ways including telephone, email, postal mail, text messages, leaflets and fliers. They can be hard to spot, but if you know what to look out for you are more likely to avoid them. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:
- 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. Medicare cards do not expire, so be wary of someone saying they need to send you a new one. Additionally, Medicare will never call you uninvited and ask you to give us personal or private information.
- Bogus offers for free medical supplies. Someone calls with an offer of 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. 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.
Many people that have been scammed keep the experience to themselves. They feel foolish, fear being judged and possibly scared of being considered incapable of handling their own finances. There is no need to be embarrassed and no shame in being a victim of Medicare or other scam. There are very sophisticated scams perpetrated by very slick individuals.
If you suspect a fraud has occurred, you should report it, providing as many details as you can, in any of the following ways:
- Call Medicare’s help line at 800-633-4227
- Call the Office of Inspector General directly at 800‑HHS‑TIPS (800‑447‑8477)
- File an online report with the Office of Inspector General
Health care scams are becoming an increasingly common problem. To protect yourself from this scam, it’s important to remember that Medicare will never contact you to request personal information. If you receive a call or email asking for your personal information, hang up immediately and report it to the authorities.
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