Is Medicare Calling You? It Could Be a Scam
When Martin Thuna’s caller ID claimed that Medicare was calling, he was skeptical. But when the caller provided Thuna’s full name and address, he thought it might be the real deal — until they asked for his Medicare and Social Security numbers (SSN) as well. [*].
It may be hard to believe, but Medicare numbers are often more valuable to criminals than credit card numbers or even SSNs. Nearly 65% of victims of medical identity theft end up paying $13,500 or more in fraudulent medical bills [*].
Medicare scam calls are among the most common ways that criminals try to get your sensitive healthcare information. Fraudsters use phone number spoofing to trick you into giving up your healthcare information.
So, how can you be sure you’re really talking to a Medicare representative and not an imposter out to scam you?
In this guide, we’ll explain exactly how Medicare scam calls work, how to quickly identify them, and what to do if you or a loved one has given a scammer your Medicare number.
How Do Medicare Scam Calls Work?
Medicare scam calls occur when criminals call you pretending to be from Medicare or a legitimate healthcare insurance provider. They’ll often use phone spoofing technology to manipulate your Caller ID into displaying that they’re calling from Medicare or a local phone number.
If you answer the phone, here’s what happens:
- First, scammers use your personal information that they found online (usually after it was leaked in a data breach) to build trust. They could have your name, address, date of birth, or even your SSN.
- Next, they’ll create a sense of urgency to try and get you to act emotionally. Scammers might claim your Medicare card is going to expire or that you’re eligible for a special plan with lower premiums.
- Finally, they’ll ask you to “verify” your Medicare number or other sensitive information. They might also pressure you to enroll in a fake or misrepresented plan, or convince you to send them money to pay for services.
Always remember: Medicare will never call you directly unless you have called them with a request. If you get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Medicare, it’s a scam.
The 7 Latest Medicare Scam Calls To Avoid
- Medicare is issuing new cards
- Your Medicare coverage is about to be canceled
- You can receive early access to special vaccines
- You have an appointment for free genetic testing
- You qualify for free medical supplies
- You’re eligible for a refund
- You’re pre-approved for a cheaper or better plan
Medicare scam calls are getting more sophisticated. If you hear any of the following pitches, you’re dealing with a scam.
1. Medicare is issuing new cards (and your old one is invalid)
One of the most common Medicare scam calls occurs when fraudsters claim that new Medicare cards are being issued and your current one is invalid.
But, in order to receive your new card (and maintain your Medicare coverage), you need to provide your personal information, such as your SSN or Medicare card number.
How to identify a “new Medicare card” scam call:
- You receive an unsolicited call claiming that your Medicare card is no longer valid. This is an immediate red flag, as Medicare will never call you out of the blue. If there’s an issue with your card, or if Medicare needs to contact you, you’ll receive an official letter from the Social Security administration (SSA) to arrange a phone interview.
- The caller tries to calm you down by saying that they’re “not asking for your Social Security card or bank account numbers.” Remember, your Medicare number is extremely valuable to criminals.
2. Your Medicare is about to be canceled (and you need to “verify” your identity)
Another common Medicare scam call involves fraudsters claiming that your Medicare is about to be canceled — unless you “verify” your identity.
Once you’re on a phone call, the scammer will ask you for information, including your:
- Current Medicare number
- Full name
- Bank information
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
If you refuse to provide the requested information, the scammer will threaten to cancel your account — a tactic used on Social Security scam calls, too.
How to identify a Medicare “ID verification” scam call:
- The caller claims you need a new Medicare number and card but doesn’t know your current card number. In actuality, Medicare already has your card number on file and doesn’t need to call you to get it.
- You’re asked for more information than you’re comfortable giving out. Medicare won’t ask beneficiaries for details such as their SSN to “verify” their identity.
In the news: When a senior citizen from Pennsylvania received a supposed call from Medicare, the prospective victim’s suspicions paid off [*]. The caller claimed that the person’s Medicare number would no longer be valid, and the current Medicare number was needed for verification. Luckily, the recipient of the call recognized it as a scam and hung up.
3. You can receive early access to special vaccines (COVID-19 scams)
Pandemic-related Medicare scams have run rampant since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines and testing kits.
In these scam calls, fraudsters claim that you’re eligible for a special vaccine or can be sent home testing kits — if you provide your Medicare number and other personal information first. Many of these scam calls start off as robocalls or text message scams, meaning that scammers can target thousands of people every single day.
How to identify a COVID-19 Medicare scam call:
- Callers offer you “special” medical treatments or COVID-19 vaccines that aren’t available to the general public. This is a classic social engineering tactic in which scammers use your fear of the pandemic to get you to act without thinking.
- You’re asked to pay out of pocket for early access to a vaccine or treatment. Medicare doesn’t offer special treatment for people who pay extra. If anyone claiming to be from Medicare asks for payment, it’s a scam.
4. You need to confirm your appointment for free genetic testing
Some Medicare scammers will claim that you’re eligible for free genetic testing to look for cancer and other conditions. If you agree, scammers will either steal your information or use it to bill Medicare for the test.
In one example, an Ohio man answered a call on his cell phone from a woman claiming to be from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The woman said she was calling about free genetic testing to screen for heart disease and cancer, and asked about his health. But when she wanted him to provide his Medicare number, he luckily hung up [*].
How to identify a genetic testing Medicare scam call:
- You’re contacted out of the blue and offered free genetic testing that you didn’t request. Scammers will claim that the services are “free,” when really they’re using your information to steal from Medicare.
- You’re sent a “free” at-home test. Often, these tests will be accompanied by a request for your Medicare number or personal information. Don’t give out your information, verify an appointment, or accept the delivery if you’re sent an unsolicited test.
Read more: What Can a Scammer Do With Your Medicare Number? →
5. You qualify for free medical supplies
If scammers know that you have a specific health condition — such as diabetes — they might contact you with a scam call offering “free” medical supplies or even prescription drugs.
For example, scammers can find your healthcare information on the Dark Web after a data breach. Then, they’ll call you to offer free diabetes treatment supplies, including blood glucose testing strips, lancets, lancing devices, and meter batteries.
Under the guise of offering you free medical supplies, scam callers will:
- Try to get your Medicare number and other personal information.
- Ask you for your credit card number to pay for shipping or other associated costs.
- Use your information to over-bill Medicare for the materials.
How to identify a “free medical supplies” scam call:
- You’re offered free medical supplies or drugs in return for your Medicare number. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- You’re asked to pay for shipping or provide your financial information for associated costs. Never pay for medical supplies or drugs without an official invoice that you can confirm with Medicare or your health insurance provider.
6. You’re eligible for a refund for overpayment of benefits
A common phone and text scam used by fraudsters entails claiming that you’re owed a refund due to overpayment. Medicare scammers won’t hesitate to contact you at home and say that Medicare owes you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But this is almost always a scam.
How to identify a Medicare “overpayment” scam call:
- The caller claims you’re owed money from Medicare but needs your bank account number and personal identification to send you the funds. Giving a scammer this information could make you the victim of identity theft.
- The caller pressures you into giving them sensitive information by saying you’ll “lose” the money if you don’t act now. Medicare or an insurance company will never ask you to verify your information before issuing you a refund. They will certainly never ask for your banking details. Don’t feel pressured into giving up your information.
7. You’re pre-approved for a cheaper or better plan
Many Medicare scammers use telemarketing tactics to try and get you to enroll in “better” health plans. This scam is most common during the open enrollment period in the fall — when many people are checking their coverage options or enrolling in Medicare for the first time.
During these scam calls, a sales representative will claim that you’re pre-approved for a Medicare Advantage plan that has better benefits than a basic one.
In one example, a company called “Medicare Advantage” called seniors and tricked them into signing up for plans [*]. But Medicare Advantage isn’t affiliated with the federal government — they’re just using the name to try and lure victims with a false sense of security.
How to identify a fake Medicare plan scam call:
- You’re called and told you’re “pre-approved” for a plan with better coverage than your current one. If anyone offers you a Medicare plan, ask questions and do your own research. Many of these companies are fraudulent or are misrepresenting their benefits to try and get you to pay more.
- You’re contacted by someone claiming to be a Medicare representative during the open enrollment period. Remember, Medicare will never phone you directly without contacting you by mail first. Don’t follow up on unsolicited calls, brochures, or visits from Medicare representatives unless you have a previous relationship with them.
Read more: 12 Awful Seniors Scams (How to Avoid Elder Fraud) →
What To Do If You Receive a Medicare Scam Call
Medicare scam callers can be persuasive, threatening, and aggressive. But it’s important to keep calm and remember that they can’t do anything to you without your information.
If you or a loved one gets a Medicare scam call, here’s what to do:
- Don’t give out your personal information: Never share your personal information with someone who calls and claims to be with Medicare. This information includes your name, address, Medicare number, and SSN.
- Hang up the phone: Trust your instincts if a call seems suspicious, and don’t worry about being rude. You can always reach out to Medicare directly at Medicare.gov or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. Do not call back the number of the person who called you.
- Report the scam call: If you do receive a scam call, you should report it as soon as possible. Call Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE or contact their fraud hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.
- Warn your friends and family: Let your friends and family members know that you’ve received a Medicare scam call. If you’re on the same phone plan or in the same household, they could also be targeted by the same scam. Even if they aren’t, many Medicare scams are similar; and sharing your experience could help protect others if they get calls, too. For more help, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network at 877-908-3360.
- Always remember: Medicare doesn’t call you. You call them. Above all else, keep in mind that Medicare will not call you to sell you anything. If you get a suspicious call from someone claiming to be with Medicare, hang up.
Will Medicare ever call you?
According to the official Medicare website, there are only two reasons why you should ever receive a call from Medicare:
- A Medicare health or drug plan provider may call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join might also call you.
- A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE can call you if you’ve called and left a message (or received a letter informing you that someone will call you).
Did You Give Personal Information to a Scammer? Do This
If you’ve already given your information to a scammer, you could be at risk of identity theft or financial fraud. But the worst thing you can do is panic or blame yourself.
Scammers can be extremely convincing. Act quickly to minimize the damage they can do.
If you gave a scammer your Medicare number:
- Visit Medicare.gov’s Reporting Medicare Fraud and Abuse page for the correct contact information of the department you’ll need to reach regarding your situation.
- When you call, be sure to have your Medicare number ready, as well as any details regarding the scam call.
- Next, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov to file an official identity theft report. This is essential for disputing fraudulent charges that scammers could make in your name.
If you gave a scammer your banking or personal information:
- If you’ve given personal information to a scammer, you need to treat it as if your identity has been stolen.
- Contact the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov and file an official identity theft report. Then, contact your local law enforcement and file a police report for identity theft.
- Next, freeze your credit report to ensure that scammers can’t take out loans or open new accounts in your name.
- You should also contact your bank to inform them of the potential fraud. They’ll cancel your accounts and get you set up with new ones.
- As a final security measure, consider signing up for identity theft protection. Aura constantly monitors your SSN, bank accounts, and other sensitive information for signs of fraud. You’ll receive an alert about any suspicious activity and get 24/7 help from our team of fraud resolution specialists.
- Plus, if the worst should happen, every Aura plan comes with $1,000,000 in insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft.
How To Stop Medicare (and All Other) Scam Calls
Medicare scam calls aren’t the only means by which fraudsters try to take advantage of you over the phone. Here’s how to reduce the number of spam and scam calls you receive:
- Familiarize yourself with common scammer tactics, so you are less likely to fall prey to a scam in the future.
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
- Whenever someone calls you claiming to be from a company, hang up and call the company back using the official phone number on the company’s website.
- Register your number on the FTC’s Do Not Call List.
- If a caller asks you to press a number on your keypad to stop their calls, don’t do it.
- Ask your phone provider what blocking tools they offer for scam calls.
- Set a password for your voicemail so that scammers cannot spoof it.
Read more: How To Stop Spam Texts on Android and iPhone →
The Bottom Line: Don’t Let Scammers Steal Your Medicare Benefits
When it comes to Medicare scam calls, remember this one fact, first and foremost: Medicare doesn’t call you; you call them.
While law enforcement continues to do its best to crack down on Medicare scams, the best way to protect yourself is to be proactive. Be smart, and hang up on scammers. And for added protection, consider signing up for Aura.