Scams targeting people 65 and older abound, with swindlers attempting to convince unsuspecting seniors to wire them money or divulge private financial information. Medicare scams involve criminals soliciting—either online or over the phone—private data needed to steal recipients’ federal health insurance benefits or access their bank accounts.
Crooks prey on their victims’ fears, and for older adults, the threat of losing essential healthcare benefits is a powerful motivation to cooperate with someone claiming to work for Medicare. What’s more, Medicare is a complicated system, which makes it easy to trick recipients with special offers or warnings.
Understanding the most common Medicare scams could help you avoid becoming a victim.
One popular Medicare scam is to telephone or email recipients with offers for free or discounted medical equipment. A caller might claim that you are entitled to a back or knee brace at no cost, for example, and say your Medicare account information is necessary for processing the order. Using your account number, criminals then fraudulently bill Medicare for equipment and services you never received, depleting your available medical benefits in the process.
No one from Medicare will contact you with special offers, so never give strangers your account information. ￼￼
In 2018, Medicare began issuing cards with new, eleven-digit account numbers to all its recipients. Since then, scammers pretending to be Medicare workers have been contacting older adults and falsely stating that recipients must pay a fee to activate their new cards. The crooks hope to get trusting seniors to disclose personal, bank account, or credit card data by claiming they need the information to process the bogus activation charge.
There are no fees for a Medicare card, nor is there any need to activate your new account number.
Open Enrollment Scams
Scammers are highly active during the new year following Medicare’s annual open-enrollment period that ends in December. Crooks pretending to be “official” Medicare sales agents try to pressure new subscribers into joining a prescription drug plan, buying a supplemental insurance policy, or sharing their account information—often by threatening to discontinue the Medicare coverage for those who decline.
Scammers know that Medicare’s various drug-plan and supplemental-insurance options can seem confusing to older consumers. To protect yourself against fraud, only discuss your coverage with a licensed financial advisor who you know and trust.
Staying alert to Medicare scams can help protect you against fraud. If someone asks you for your account information, for money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits for any reason, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).