What do fraudsters love more than anything else? One single source they can tap into and outwit millions and millions of people.
There are big tech companies, mobile phone companies, banks, and credit card companies, but who else has millions? Medicare's endless number of beneficiaries, that’s who – all 65 million of them. If you include everyone on Medicaid, CHIP, and marketplace plans, that number goes to 160 million potential victims.
Medicare scams have become a never-ending loop. They pop up during open enrollment, they get wrapped up in impersonation scams, they even go as far as offering DNA tests to try and get someone's Medicare credentials. And those credentials are a golden ticket to information that can be monetized in any number of ways.
Medicare scams place cash-strapped beneficiaries in a worse financial bind because scams increase healthcare costs and taxes for everyone, a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs.
CMS’ top tip to every one of its members is to guard their Medicare number just like they would their Social Security and credit cards.
“You should only share your Medicare number with trusted healthcare providers,” the spokesperson said, adding that enrollees should become familiar with how Medicare uses someone's private information. "If you join a Medicare health or drug plan, the plan will let you know how it will use your personal information."
It's also important to remember that Medicare will never call anyone to sell them anything or visit anyone at their home. Medicare, or someone representing Medicare, will only call and ask for personal information in these two situations:
A Medicare health or drug plan may call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join can also call you.
A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE can call you if you’ve called and left a message or a representative said that someone would call you back.
If you sense that there’s something funny going on, CMS offers Medicare recipients a very detailed list of what phone numbers to call, online options, etc.
The agency also has state-by-state connections and for a local perspective and assistance, members may also want to contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). It helps monitor reports of scams and potential fraud in every state and does local outreach and education to Medicare beneficiaries and their families/caretakers.
“Honey, Captain Kirk says we should buy this Medicare plan…”
There’s one other thing that Medicare enrollees should know. Beginning September 30, a new rule from Medicare prohibits ads about “Medicare Advantage” intended to mislead people.
So, if William Shatner, Joe Namath, or Jimmy Walker comes on TV pitching Medicare Advantage, they are going to have to clearly state the name of the insurance plan they’re advertising.
Because marketers can be crafty, CMS warns consumers that if they see any pitch using the Medicare logo or card, the marketing company is probably trying to fool consumers into believing that a celebrity endorser represents the federal government. Use of those logos and cards will be disallowed starting on Sept. 30, as well.
The new rules also require insurance agents and brokers who market Medicare Advantage plans to explain the coverage they’re offering and show evidence that the benefits of a plan are really available in the state or county where a consumer lives.
One last provision that will make consumers happy is that a broker can’t keep calling a person to try and sell them a plan until 12 months after they first asked for information or expressed interest in a plan.