Consumer Alert: Medicare Scam
April 13, 2018
As part of an upcoming, yearlong process that involves converting every Medicare beneficiary’s identification number to an alphanumeric code, identity thieves and other scammers are on the prowl to take advantage of unsuspecting Medicare recipients.
Medicare consumers should be aware that starting April 1st 2018, the federal health insurance company will begin to reissue new ID cards to everyone with a current plan. At the time being, all beneficiaries’ identification numbers are their own social security numbers – this new process will change them to a combination of letters and numbers.
As part of this update, beneficiaries don’t need to do anything to get their new identification numbers and cards in the mail. This means that customers don’t need to make any electronic or telephonic requests; the new cards are also completely free of cost. One of the most crucial facts to know is that absolutely no representative from Medicare will call you unless you’ve requested for them to. If someone contacts you and claims they’re from the agency and requests any of the following information, consider it a red flag and take some necessary steps to protect yourself from fraud:
- The beneficiary’s personal information, such as a bank account or credit card number, and:
- Any payment for the new identification card whatsoever
These scammers tell beneficiaries that until their new identification cards are delivered they require a temporary one that costs anywhere from $5 to $50. This is entirely false! There are no temporary identification cards; this is how the criminals aim to steal people’s personal and financial information.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that approximately 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud every year – and more than half of them are over 50-years-old. Medicare recipients must be over 65 or receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a certain time period in order to be eligible for coverage; this means that many of the insurer’s beneficiaries are over the age of 50 and therefore part of the at-risk group for consumer fraud and other forms of identity theft.
There are some other well-known scams that Medicare recipients may be at risk for as well – especially with the identification switchover process going on over these upcoming months. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), some of these may include:
- When an imposter representative asks for a Medicare consumer’s social security number – scammers sometimes claim that this is to verify someone’s identity in order to process any new identification cards;
- Telling a customer that they are actually owed money from a past bill or from unused benefits, but that they need a credit card or bank account number to return the money
To find out more general information on this latest scam as well as others, you can visit the AARP’s Medicare Fraud Watch Network at: https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/fraud-watch-network/. If you think you may have given your personal or banking information to a scammer, there are some steps you should take:
- Contact your bank and credit card company to report the issue;
- Look out for unusual or suspicious financial activity;
- Request that fraud alerts be added to your accounts with multiple credit bureaus like Equifax, TransUnion and Experian (this can make it harder for scammers to get credit line increases, etc.);
- Report it, and:
- Change passwords and PINs (personal identification number)
If you believe you’re a victim of consumer fraud and would like to make a complaint with the FTC, you can do so here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
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