Oh, the joy of spam calls. We all get them constantly, it seems. They call about everything, and it seems impossible to get the calls to stop. Unfortunately, there are people out there who prey on the unsuspecting, especially our Medicare beneficiaries.

Avoiding Medicare scams can be easy, but you need to know what to look for. A few confusing things are that it seems like all calls come from a local number, and this does not mean it’s actually someone calling from your area.

Are There Any Medicare Scams?

As previously stated, Medicare schemes exist in numerous forms. Regardless of the format, it’s crucial for all Medicare beneficiaries to put both themselves and their personal information, especially from potential scammers and other fraudulent activity. Below are some common ways that these deceptions occur.

Social Security, Medicare, and Phone Calls

It’s essential to know that Medicare providers will never call you for information. They’ll send you a letter if they need information from you.

If you receive a phone call stating they’re either of those two, hang up and call the associated office directly unless you requested a call.

Let them know someone called you stating they were with Medicare. Medicare can look up your records to verify and see the reason for the call.

TV Commercials

Every fall, a new celebrity on TV seems to be talking about Medicare plans and all the “free” stuff you may qualify for. Most people already have plans that include many of these benefits, but you’ll find that it’s a give and take.

Many recipients already have the benefits, but their agent didn’t explain them adequately. They don’t realize they have it or how to use it. Like every advertisement, a salesperson on the phone will try to sell you into another plan.

Social Media Advertising

Everyone is on social media nowadays. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or some other social media company, advertising will pop up from time to time for you to click on.

As we are scrolling through social media, reading articles, looking at pictures, or just catching up with friends and family, little health care advertisements will pop up frequently. It’s often based on the things you like or are interested in. Other times, companies have paid to have advertisements on your page.

Internet Advertisements

Similar to social media, your web browser will also have advertisements on your search. It will have the word Ad next to the headline. Companies use these to get your information to solicit products or services to you.

The ads are vetted pretty well, in most cases, by legitimate companies. However, some scammers slip through the cracks.

Pay attention to the URL

These ads are usually from legit companies, but sometimes you will see an advertisement from a scammer. Make sure you are looking at the URL up in the address bar of your internet browser window.

Keep an eye out for URLs that, at a quick glance, look like legitimate, well-known companies but are spelled differently. I had times when I clicked on an ad, and then a site came up for Amazon.com. This is common since I shop with Amazon frequently.

Occasionally I will click on an advertisement, and it will be spelled differently, such as AMAZ0N.com. In the example above, the O is replaced with a zero, and it can be hard to recognize the difference. Make sure it is the official website.

Bait and Switch

You also see advertisements saying, “Click here for a free IPAD!” Most of the time, in these cases, it’s simply a company trying to collect your information so they can contact you and attempt to sell you a product or service. Other times it can be a scammer trying to sell you a fake item.

Filling out Web Forms

Web forms are essential tools in today’s world. Of course, we’d all like the information right now. However, additional questions and answers are sometimes needed to get accurate prices and information.

Web forms are the tools used to contact people interested in what a company is trying to sell and a tool for having a knowledgeable representative provide you with the information.

You’ll not get the information when the web form is submitted in most cases. You will usually get a phone call and email once you fill out a form.

Do Not Call List

One of the things you can do is register your phone number on the National Do Not Call registry. By doing this, legitimate companies can’t call you unless you request information. It takes about a month for the calls to stop. If you are still getting calls after 31 days, you can file a complaint.

Call Blockers

Most smartphones can download a call blocker. If you install one of these calls from numbers you block, go directly to voicemail. Unfortunately, most companies use different numbers and constantly update their outbound numbers.

FAQs

How do I recognize a Medicare scam?

As mentioned above, Medicare will never call you to gather information or give you information over the phone. If you get a call from someone claiming to be Medicare wanting you to verify something over the phone, it’s an attempt at identity theft.

You shouldn’t respond to emails from Medicare asking for personal information. Medicare scam calls increase when changes to Medicare occur and during the election periods.

What can a scammer do with a Medicare number?

The Medicare numbers are used to correspond with your or your spouse’s social security number. This is no longer the case. Most scam calls say they confirm your information because you are entitled to additional funds.

They will ask for the Medicare coverage number and usually the banking or credit card information. They also could say you owe something on your Medicare card and request payment and payment information in an attempt to commit identity theft

Would Medicare call to update information?

No, Medicare does not make phone calls to update or provide information over the phone. These would come in the form of a letter. This is true even during open enrollment

Why am I getting so many spam calls about Medicare?

You’ve started receiving so many scam calls because Medicare scamming is a numbers game — the more calls and emails they send out to more people, the more likely they’ll be able to deceive someone. The best way to limit the number of calls you get is to use screening or simply don’t answer a number you don’t recognize.

What should I do if I suspect a Medicare scam?

You should call Medicare itself immediately, or visit medicare.gov. The organization regularly deals with these types of schemes and is equipped to go after the scammers on your behalf. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is another good resource.

What is the difference between Medicare fraud and a scam?

A scam is someone using the guise of Medicare to obtain your information for their financial benefit. On the other hand, Medicare fraud refers more to the act of making a fake claim — the doctor or patient — in order to illegally get Medicare to pay for the services.

How do I know if someone is a scammer?

The biggest way to immediately tell if someone is a Medicare scammer is them asking for your personal information. Medicare itself or your health care provider will not email or call you asking for this ever.

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by Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications as an industry expert since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.