(BPT) - Every year, many seniors are targeted by scammers who want to steal their Medicare numbers to do things like rack up fake health care charges and commit identify theft. These scams hurt seniors and other people eligible for Medicare, cost taxpayers money, and result in higher health care costs for everyone. The good news is that you can protect yourself from fraud and help Medicare stop scammers in their tracks.
How to Spot Medicare Fraud
The first step in protecting yourself from Medicare fraud is knowing how to spot it. Over time, scammers have become very sophisticated and advanced. One of the latest scams you should look out for concerns genetic testing. Scammers are offering “free” genetic tests and claiming Medicare will cover it — so they can get your Medicare number and use it to commit fraud and identity theft. Other Medicare scams include offers for free or reduced-price medical equipment, consultations, or health services. These scams can happen anywhere, including through telemarketing calls, health fairs, and even knocking on doors.
Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) removed Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards. Even with this change, people with Medicare should still guard their Medicare card and treat it like a credit card, check Medicare claims summary forms for errors, and be wary of any unsolicited requests for your Medicare number. Medicare will never call beneficiaries to ask for or check Medicare numbers.
To protect yourself from Medicare fraud, keep these things to “do” and “don’t do” in mind:
- DO protect your Medicare number and treat your Medicare card like it's a credit card.
- DO remember that nothing is ever “free.” Don't accept offers of money or gifts for free medical care.
- DO review your Medicare claims for errors and problems, including things like fake charges, double billing or other fraudulent activity, and waste or abuse.
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- DO visit www.medicare.gov/fraud to learn more about how you can protect yourself from Medicare fraud.
- DON’T give your Medicare card or Medicare number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it.
- DON’T accept medical supplies, equipment, or genetic testing kits from door-to-door salesmen or solicitors at a mall or fair.
- DON’T let anyone persuade you to receive health care services you don't need, such as genetic testing. Only make these decisions with your doctor.
Reporting Medicare Fraud
If you think you may have spotted fraud, you should report it right away. No matter how minimal the information you share is, it could be the missing piece to stopping the next fraud scheme. If you are a victim of fraud, know that you won’t be penalized or lose your coverage for reporting it. Even if you are not a victim, it’s important to report any fraud scams you encounter to Medicare. Report suspected fraud by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or online through the Office of the Inspector General.
Information provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.