You can be a victim of identity theft or fraud at any age, but Medicare recipients can be especially vulnerable to people who want to steal money or personal information. Medicare fraud is a huge expense, and those costs become a burden to Medicare recipients through higher health care costs and taxes. With this in mind, Medicare is constantly working to prevent fraud and protect its recipients and providers, but they can’t do it alone. By understanding your rights and what to expect from Social Security and Medicare, you can protect yourself against fraud.
Does Social Security Ever Call You?
One of the easiest ways for scam artists to get personal information from you is by calling and asking for it. Innovative technology has made it easier than ever for people to disguise their true identities. “Robo-calls” claiming to be from Social Security use special software to mask their true phone number and, instead, make sure the official phone number for the Social Security Administration (SSA) shows up in your caller ID.
Don’t be tricked into giving callers information, hang up the phone and call the SSA back directly. The Social Security Administration may contact you by phone, but they do so only for customer service purposes, NOT to request personal information or to demand payments of any sort.
In 2018 and 2019, 59 million Americans got new Medicare I.D. cards. These new cards use a new numbering system that is random and is meant to provide more security for Medicare recipients. Unfortunately, not all Medicare beneficiaries are aware that this new card is free of charge. If someone calls you to try to persuade you to pay for a new card, report it to Medicare immediately. Do not give anyone calling you any credit card numbers or your Social Security number.
Medicare fraud can occur in different ways. A medical provider could perform services that aren’t necessary, or intentionally use the wrong medical billing codes for treatments or procedures. You can catch billing fraud attempts by carefully reviewing the billing notice that you receive whenever a health care provider bills Medicare. Make sure you keep records of all treatments and services you have and compare them against these notices.
Fraud Prevention Tips
Medicare recipients can take certain precautions to prevent falling prey to fraudulent activity. Keep these tips in mind to keep your personal information safe and secure:
- Never give your Medicare or Social Security card or number to anyone except your health care provider or others who you are certain should have it.
- Don’t be tricked into accepting offers of money or gifts for free medical care.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your medical care and what costs are billed to Medicare.
- Record all you doctor’s appointments, tests, X-rays, time spent in the hospital, admission and discharge dates, and diagnosis. When you get your Medicare statement, check all the services against your records to make sure they are correct.
- Be aware of providers who tell you they know how to make Medicare pay for something that isn’t normally covered by Medicare.
- Be sure that you know how a plan works before you join it and ask questions if you aren’t clear.
- At the pharmacy, make sure you have received the correct medication for your prescription, if it is generic or brand, and if it is the full amount prescribed. Report any discrepancies to the pharmacist immediately.
- Only allow your physician or other Medicare providers to review your medical records or to recommend services.
- Do not ask your physician for services you do not need and do not allow anyone to persuade you to do so.
- Medicare does not sell products on a door-to-door basis, so do not buy any medical supplies from people claiming to represent Medicare.
- Don’t allow advertisements to influence decisions about your health.
- Make sure you report any instances of fraud.
Don’t let anyone bully you into giving them your personal information over the phone, even if they say that they are calling from Medicare, the Social Security Administration or any well-known organizations. Legitimate businesses and organizations will never threaten you. If you have any doubts about the person calling you, hang up and call the organization yourself directly.