MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Evey Owen with AARP Alabama joins us to talk about Medicare card scams. Here’s a look at AARP’s Q&A.
What is the Medicare Card Scam?
From April 2018 to January 2019, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent every Medicare beneficiary a new card designed to better protect against identity theft. But this new approach hasn’t stopped criminals from targeting older Americans.
Medicare card scams might look like an impostor asking for your new identifying number to “activate” your new card or confirm that you received it. They may assert that your new card isn’t the right one and won’t work; they’ll offer to send a replacement if you provide personal information, such as a Social Security number or date of birth. They might try to entice you to pay a fee to upgrade from a paper to a plastic card (which Medicare doesn’t actually offer). Another trick is to claim there’s been suspicious activity on your Medicare account, and you need to verify your identity to avoid losing your benefits.
What does Medicare Services Fraud look like?
Medicare fraud typically involves rogue health care providers or medical suppliers who bill the program for services, equipment or medication that they don’t actually provide, or else inflate the cost of those items. Some will even falsify patients’ diagnoses to justify unnecessary tests, surgeries and other procedures or write prescriptions for patients they’ve never examined. Others use genuine patient information, sometimes obtained through identity theft, to create fake claims.
The scams have historically involved durable medical equipment, like back braces, wheel chairs and the like. But lately, scammers are pulling off a new scam – saying Medicare will pay for DNA testing. An ad or telemarketer touts “free” DNA testing to screen for cancer or to learn how your body may respond to certain medications. As with the medical equipment scam, all you need to do is share your Medicare number.
These scams can also be harmful to your health. If shady operators obtain your Medicare number and bill the program for phony prescriptions or unnecessary medical equipment, you could be denied coverage later for drugs or devices you genuinely need.
How can people tell if it’s a scam?
Medicare requires a doctor’s prescription for medical equipment and DNA tests. If someone offers you something for free, it’s too good to be true. Also, Medicare employees will never call you without being invited to do so — for example, if you left a message at Medicare’s customer service line.
What should people do or not do to protect themselves?
· Do hang up immediately if you get an unsolicited call from someone who claims to be from Medicare and asks for personal information.
· Review your Medicare Summary Notices (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB) when they arrive.
o One of the best things that a beneficiary can do — or their family members and caretakers — is look at the Medicare Summary Notices (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB) that come in the mail. This notice will list services you received recently from doctors, hospitals, or other health care providers. It tells you what the provider billed Medicare, Medicare’s approved amount for the service, the amount Medicare paid, and what you have to pay. Look for signs of fraud, including claims you don’t recognize. If you see something on that statement that doesn’t look right, then report that suspected fraud to 1-800-HHS-TIPS, the OIG hotline to report suspected crimes.
· Also, register for a MyMedicare account if you are online.
o Registering with MyMedicare.gov gives you access to your personalized information at any time. It lets you: Check your Medicare information, such as your Medicare claims, as soon as they are processed, as well as important Medicare-related information specific to you. Find your eligibility, entitlement, and preventive service information. Check your health and prescription drug enrollment information. View your Part B deductible information. Manage your prescription drug list and other personal health information.
· Don’t share your Medicare or Social Security number (or other personal information) with anyone who contacts you out of the blue by phone or email, or shows up unannounced at your door. Only share your Medicare number with trusted providers of your health care and coverage, such as doctors, pharmacists, insurers and state health agencies that work with Medicare.
· Don’t send or give your old Medicare card to anyone. Impostors may claim you need to return it. The government doesn’t need your old card back and recommends that you destroy it. Run it through a shredder, or cut it up with scissors (making sure to mutilate the part with your Social Security number).
· Don’t believe a caller is a Medicare employee simply because he or she knows some information about you. Scammers will have done their homework.
YOU have the power to protect yourself! Start by visiting the AARP Fraud Watch Network at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork – it’s a free resource for everyone, where you will find: information about the latest scams, a scam-tracking map, and sign up for our biweekly Watchdog Alerts