Medicare fraud is an unfortunate reality in the world today. Millions of dollars are lost every year from Medicare scams, and these scams can wreak havoc on the lives of individuals. Those who dismiss the possibility that they could fall victim are at the highest risk. It’s important to stay vigilant, discuss sensitive information only with people you trust, and take steps to ensure your safety.
How to Avoid Medicare Scams
With Medicare fraud, the first step is admitting that it could happen to you, that way you can take steps to protect your information. Scams can be easily avoided if you take extra precautions and follow a few simple tips:
- Treat your Medicare card like a credit card. Keep it in a safe spot and never give out your number to anyone other than your doctors.
- Do not accept an offer for free gifts or money in exchange for your Medicare information.
- Don’t accept services that aren’t usually covered by Medicare unless a doctor that you trust tells you that it is necessary.
- Don’t forget that Medicare will never call you to update your information and that you should only be talking to trusted doctors and advisors about your Medicare needs.
Know Your Rights and Avoid Marketing Scams
During the Annual Enrollment Period, you may hear from your Medicare company or meet in person with a new agent. It is important that you understand your rights because during this time there is a very specific set of guidelines that agents are supposed to follow. If they are marketing to you incorrectly, this is a violation of your rights and potentially deceitful.
Here are a few things to note about Medicare marketing during Open Enrollment:
- Agents must give you information only about items listed in the form you filled out when you asked for an appointment. Be sure to mention all of your specific needs on your form, because the agent can’t talk about other Medicare or insurance products that you didn’t ask to talk about.
- Agents can’t change the enrollment dates or set a new time limit. Everyone has until December 7 to enroll, and there aren’t any extra benefits for signing up early.
- Agents should never threaten to take away your benefits if you don’t sign up for a plan or offer you gifts if you agree to sign up.
- Agents cannot suggest that Medicare endorses or prefers their plan over any other. You are free to choose whatever plan works best for you.
- You should never receive a call or leaflets on your car or home from a company you don’t already have a relationship with.
- Agents cannot come to your home without an invitation.
- Agents cannot give you misleading information about your plan benefits. Make sure to check your Explanation of Benefits for the coverage you are expecting.
If any agent does ask you questions they’re not supposed to you or anything feels off, it is okay to walk away and find someone else who will treat you with more respect.
Common Medicare Scams
While most of the marketing scams listed above pertain to in-person meetings with agents, scammers may try to get information from you in other ways, too. Here are some common scams to be on the lookout for:
- Grandparent scam: Someone may call you pretending to be your grandchild asking for money to get them out of trouble. You may think you would recognize their voice, but you’d be surprised what can happen when adrenaline kicks in. If you ever receive a call like this, make sure to ask specific questions to confirm their identity.
- Medicare coverage helpline: You may see a commercial or advertisement targeting people with Medicare Parts A and B who may be eligible for vision, dental, and prescription drug plans due to a recent Medicare health reform. They provide a 1-800 number to call to enroll in these plans. Don’t call the number and instead talk to your licensed agent about any additional coverage you may need to add to your current plan.
- Internet scams: It is easy enough for scammers to put up fake websites and targeted ads. Always make sure that the websites you are using start with “https” and not “http,” as the “s” indicates a secure site. You can also Google search “company name scam” and see if anything comes up.
- Phone scams: A phone call is the number one way scammers try to get sensitive information or money from seniors. You may get a call from someone claiming to be a Medicare representative who asks for your social security number or Medicare number so they can give you free services.
Another common phone scam is someone asking “Can you hear me?” They will edit you saying “yes” so that it sounds like you are agreeing to purchase a product or to submit information. If you answer the phone and someone you don’t know asks this, hang up immediately.
- Medicare Refunds: Scammers may also try to get your bank information by telling you you have a Medicare refund available because of something like a change to your plan or lawsuit with a private company. Medicare will never ask for your bank information and if you ever do receive a refund, it will be mailed to you directly.
Scammers are getting smarter every day and finding new ways to trick Medicare recipients out of their information and money. Take extra precautions with every interaction to make sure your information and identity remain safe.
One crucial way to avoid Medicare fraud is by meeting with a licensed Medicare advisor if you have questions or concerns. When you trust Plan Advisors, you can guarantee that you're getting help from a reputable agent who takes your privacy and Medicare coverage seriously. Find a local trusted Medicare advisor today.