Medicare will never directly call you UNLESS you have first called them and asked them to call you back, or you have received an official letter from Medicare arranging for a phone call.
Medicare beneficiaries never need to update their information, pay a fee, or activate a new card.
New cards are mailed out automatically and there is no fee. The cards do not expire and you never need to order a new one.
A recent Federal Trade Commission report showed that consumers lost $5.8 billion dollars due to fraud in 2021, a dramatic 70% increase from the previous year.
Mixed in with those fraud numbers are losses associated with Medicare phone scams. Although the scam calls are made throughout the year they occur more frequently during the Medicare Open Enrollment period, which is every year between October 15 and January 7.
Medicare recipients are typically targeted by scam callers fishing for personal information. They can be sly in deceiving recipients into believing they are calling from an official Medicare entity and tricking their targets into divulging personal information like their birthdate, Social Security Number (SSN), and more.
Here are some things you need to know to prevent you from falling prey to one of these schemes.
Does Medicare Call My Home and ask for More Information?
No! Medicare will not call you and ask you to provide or update any information. Medicare representatives will never come to your home to ask you to update your information.
There are only two situations where you may receive a legitimate telephone call from Medicare:
1) You have called the official Medicare phone number which is 1-800- MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and have asked for someone to return your call.
2) You have received an official letter from Medicare setting up a phone interview. The letter will tell you specifically what Medicare needs from you. Even then, this rarely happens.
What Are Some Common Signs that the Call is a Scam?
The scammers are skilled at what they do. They seem caring and helpful. They are patient as they explain to you why they are calling and what they need from you. They come across as knowledgeable and credible. They already have some personal information about you which makes them seem even more credible.
There are some common signs that the call is a scam. Some examples of what scam callers say are:
- They must “verify your identity” so they can send you an “updated Medicare card.” Sometimes, they may ask for a credit card number telling you there is a charge for this new card.
- You are entitled to a refund, and they will give some vague reason that seems to make sense. They ask for your Medicare Number and your banking information, so they can give you your refund by direct deposit into your bank account.
- You are entitled to a piece of durable medical equipment (DME). All they need is your SSN and Medicare number to “verify coverage.” The offer is often for a “special” brace to relieve joint pain. The scammer will ask you for a credit card number to cover the “cost of shipping.” You may receive something in the mail, but it will be an ordinary over-the-counter elastic type of wrap. Medicare will have been charged thousands of dollars for the “special brace.” Then, if you ever do legitimately need any DME, you discover your benefits have been depleted.
- Medicare is sending you a new card AND you need to pay a fee to activate it. The way the scammer fools people into this one is that Medicare is really sending out new cards, but they were mailed out automatically. There is no fee for the card and no need to take any action to activate it.
- Your new card was not the correct card, and they need to replace it. First, you need to verify your identity by providing your SSN or date of birth.
- If you pay a fee, you can replace your paper card with a plastic one or one with a chip. Be aware that Medicare does not offer cards with a chip and will never ask for a fee to replace a card.
- There has been suspicious activity related to your Medicare account. You need to verify your identity by giving the caller personal information. The caller tells you that if you don’t comply with the request, you will lose your Medicare benefits.
You cannot tell if the call is a scam by checking your caller ID. Scammers are clever and use technology to cloak their identity which can produce phony caller IDs to hide their location and make it look like they are either calling from your own area code or the area code of Medicare. They can do this even if they are calling you from a foreign country.
How Should I Respond to a Call I Think is a Scam?
There are several ways:
- Simply hang up.
- Do not give any personal information to a caller claiming to be from Medicare.
- Do not send your Medicare card to anyone. The government does not need your card back even if they have sent you a new one.
- It has been suggested that you should ask the caller for their phone number and explain you will call them back. The caller may get frustrated and hang up. On the other hand, the caller may give you a phone number. You call right back, and they answer in a way that sounds legitimate, so this is not a good way to screen callers.
- If you have any questions about a call you have received, call the official Medicare phone number at 1-800 MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to report the call.
Will Insurance Companies Call Me About My Medigap or Medicare Advantage Plans?
You may receive a legitimate phone call from your insurance company if you have a Medigap or Medicare Advantage Plan. Callers should clearly identify themselves as calling you from the insurance company and NOT say they are calling from Medicare. You should ask for the insurance agent’s identification number.
Is There Any Way to Stop Scam Calls?
Currently it is difficult to stop all scam calls. Phone carriers have systems to place cut down on the amount of robocalls or spam/scam calls you may receive. In addition, you can report unwanted calls and add your telephone number to the do not call list maintained by the Federal Trade Commission which is 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you wish to register.