Protect Yourself from Medicare Scams

Within the last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out new cards to every Medicare beneficiary. These cards were designed to help protect seniors against identity theft, which is a growing problem in America. Old cards showed a member’s Social Security number, whereas the new cards use a unique, randomly assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, or MBI. Unfortunately, many fraudsters have seized on this opportunity to attempt to scam seniors out of money and personal information that can be used for identity theft.

During the roll out, scammers contacted beneficiaries, impersonating employees of CMS, in an attempt to “verify” personal information or collect payment for a “processing fee” to receive their new cards. If you receive a call about a “new” Medicare card – this is a scam and you should not speak to anyone claiming to work for CMS if they ask for personal information or payment.

The scammers may ask for your MBI number or your Social Security number. They have no reason to ask for this information. They may also tell you that there is a fee for the new card. There is no fee. CMS will never call you without invitation and ask for your personal information and they will never ask for payment over the phone. Scammers may also claim that there has been suspicious activity on your account and that they need to verify your identity. They may try to get you to upgrade to a plastic card, which does not exist.

What these scammers are looking for is your personal information, so they can attempt to steal your identity. Some of them are looking for a quick way to make money. One of the telltale signs of a payment scam is that they will ask you to pay by unusual methods, such as gift cards or Apple iTunes cards. Fraudsters do this so that payment cannot be traced backed to them. Never pay for anything over the phone with a gift card, iTunes card, or any form of payment other than a credit card or check. When you use a credit card or check, these payments can be traced and you will not be held liable if they are fraudulent. Either way, Medicare or CMS will never ask you for payment over the phone.

Remember: if someone claiming to be from the US government is calling YOU and you did not request it, it is almost always a scam.

If you have not received your new Medicare card, you can go to MyMedicare.gov (which is the CMS portal) to request one. If you are worried that you may have been the target of a Medicare or Social Security scam, you can contact the FCC to file a complaint. For concerns over a stolen identity or if you have paid someone in a scam operation, contact your local police department and file a criminal complaint.