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Medicare shares its go-to list of dos and donts

By Gary Guthrie of ConsumerAffairs
June 9, 2024

Photo

As luck dumb luck would have it, scammers recently tried to trick this ConsumerAffairs reporter into turning over their Social Security number under the guise of offering the new plastic Medicare card.

When the phone call came in, the number that popped up on caller ID was from my area code and looked like something I had seen before, so I answered it.

Mr. Guthrie, were calling to see if youve received your new plastic Medicare card.

No, I responded. Tell me more about this.

Well, theres a new plastic Medicare card and were calling Medicare recipients to make sure everyone has received theirs, they said.

When I asked Who are you with? and they said Were a Medicare regulation, I knew they were up to no good for the simple fact that there is no such thing as a Medicare regulation (not even a Medicare "regulator" which is what they were trying to get across, I think).

But, I let them play on, just for grins. And they kept digging themselves a deep hole as all the telltale signs of a scam popped up: they wanted my Social Security number and my Medicare card number two things that scammers can turn into all sorts of identity and account theft. That's when the call ended.

When I contacted CMS the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services they saidthat the genesis of this scam may have begun in 2018, when CMS removed Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards.

Doing that ticked off scammers who were getting rich off of those SSNs and decided that the only ways to get those numbers back in their hands was to do things like telling seniors that Medicare is issuing an updated or new card like this plastic one, a metal one, or one with a chip.

Medicare is a Mother Bear

Medicare guards its enrollees like family. The agency understands that seniors can be particularly vulnerable and does all it can to protect its members. In addition to all the Medicare-related scams that ConsumerAffairs has collected over the years, aspokesperson with CMS shared some current points that can keep subscribers safe, such as:

Do:

  • Protect your Medicare Number and Social Security Number.

  • Guard your Medicare card like it is a credit card.

  • Become familiar with how Medicare uses your personal information. If you join a Medicare health or drug plan, the plan will let you know how it will use your personal information.

  • Remember that Medicare will never call you to sell you anything or visit you at your 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 are already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join can also call you.

    • A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE or a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor can call you if you have called and left a message or a representative said that someone would call you back.

Dont:

  • Give your Medicare card, Medicare Number, Social Security card, or Social Security number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it (like insurers acting on your behalf or people who work with Medicare, like your SHIP. Get the contact information for your local SHIP.

  • Accept offers of money or gifts for free medical care.

  • Allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.

  • Join a Medicare health or drug plan over the phone unless you called the plan directly.

If you do get a call from anyone who purports to be with Medicare, dont move another inch. Call the HHS fraud hotline at 800-447-8477 (800-HHS-Tips) and tell them what happened. If you have the phone number the scammer called from, share that, too.

The CMS spokesperson also tipped off ConsumerAffairs on to something that every single state has to protect seniors: local Senior Medicare Patrols (SMP). To find the SMP in your state, just go to the SMP Locator or call the nationwide toll-free number 877-808-2468 and ask for the SMP phone number where you live.



Photo Credit: Consumer Affairs News Department Images


Posted: 2024-06-10 11:17:29

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