The number of Medicare scams and scam calls increases during the Annual Enrollment Period, which runs annually from October 15 to December 7 – but you could become a Medicare scam victim at any time.
Con artists pretend to be helpful but steal your personal and financial information and hard-earned savings – and cause avoidable headaches. That’s why it’s crucial to stay up-to-date on the latest scams and know what to look out for.
This year, the biggest scams are taking advantage of the news you see on TV or your cellphone. The latest headlines about COVID-19, diabetes, Medicaid unwinding, and more. Let’s delve into the five biggest deceptions this year, plus ten ways to quickly identify scams – and report them.
Whether you have a chronic medical condition – or not – you’re a target for this latest scam. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) uses medical devices such as scales, continuous monitoring glucose monitors, blood pressure cuffs, cardiac rhythm devices, and other medical equipment to monitor for abnormalities. RPMs are life-saving for people who have chronic medical conditions that could deteriorate quickly.
You could be called, click on an internet ad, or see a television ad for a company promoting access to these devices, whether you need it or not. Once they get you on the phone, you fill out their online form or dial in from their TV ad; these Medicare scammers will ask for your personal information. Once they have it, they’ll begin billing you for the set-up, teaching you how to use the equipment and the monthly monitoring cost.
Be looking for Durable Medicare Equipment (DME) or pharmacies making these offers or claims. They’ll likely never send you the equipment you requested, or the equipment you do receive may not be FDA-approved. Plus, the monthly monitoring never happens.
One thing that will happen? You’ll be on the hook for the bill.
You’ve heard the adage, “Nothing is free.” Well, it couldn’t be more accurate in the case of genetic testing. Genetic tests can cost thousands of dollars, but scammers may offer you one for “free.” But it’ll cost you dearly.
Screening or genetic testing scams target people who want to be tested for the following and more:
Once you accept one of these free genetic screenings or cheek swabs for genetic testing, the scammer will ask you to verify personal or Medicare information. That’s when you’ve been hooked. Now, the fraudster will bill Medicare for the test or screening that’s not medically necessary and/or was not ordered by your physician. If Medicare denies the claim, and they likely will, you’ll be responsible for the entire cost of the test – thousands of dollars.
When the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency officially ended in May 2023, Medicare stopped paying for most at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. But that hasn’t stopped scammers.
If a scammer has gotten your Medicare number, they could attempt to bill Medicare for COVID-19-related services and tests you didn’t receive. Those claims will likely be denied now that the Public Health Emergency is over. Now, bills might come directly to your home – in your name. And you’ll be liable for those bills.
Scammers also sell fake at-home COVID-19 test kits in exchange for your personal or medical information, like your Medicare or Social Security number. Ensure that if you’re purchasing a COVID test, it’s from a legitimate FDA-approved source.
Better yet, you can get four FREE COVID-19 at-home tests in the mail by requesting them at covid.gov/tests.
Every November is Diabetes Awareness Month; it’s also in the middle of the Annual Enrollment Period. This is when you likely receive an influx of Medicare-related calls and must be on high alert for Medicare scams and scam calls.
Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, we saw Medicare savings for many who take insulin. We also witnessed an influx in diabetes-related Medicare scams. These latest scams offer free diabetic supplies such as Continuous Glucose Monitors (GCM), glucose meters, diabetic test strips, or lancets in exchange for your Medicare or Social Security number, financial information, or confirmation of this information. This fraud has dramatically impacted many people, costing Medicare and its beneficiaries.
Throughout the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicaid didn’t need to recertify their eligibility based on their income. However, when the emergency ended in May 2023, states began recertification. The recertification process became an entry point for fraudsters.
In some states, scammers called or texted Medicaid members to inform them that they risk Medicaid cancelation. If they didn’t respond, an even more aggressive text or call would say that their Medicaid coverage had been canceled and they needed to call the number immediately. Once connected from that call, someone demands that they pay a fee – as much as $500 – or risk losing their health coverage.
If you receive Medicaid and get a phone call or text asking for your Medicare or Medicaid information or money, hang up. You will never need to pay to renew or have your Medicaid coverage reinstated. And Medicaid agencies do not send text messages like this.
The best way to combat this scam is to be alert and ensure that your address is updated with your Medicaid program so that you receive all official notices.
When you suspect fraud, there are three steps to take:
Are you getting a lot of calls from unknown numbers or caller IDs that you don’t know? Those are probably robocalls from scammers who want to access your personal information, account numbers, or credit card numbers to perpetrate identity theft.
Add your landline and cell phone numbers to the Do Not Call Registry to stop these numbers. Call 1-888-382-1222 to do this. Call from the phone numbers that you want to add to the list.
Next, install call-blocking apps, or many newer cell phones have built-in spam or robocall protection.
Finally, if you receive misleading or fraudulent calls you didn’t initiate, you should report them to Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048).
If you receive a Medicare scam call, immediately call 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048) and report the call to Medicare. Also, call the Health and Human Service Office of Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477 to report Medicare fraud. This ensures that scammers are tracked down and helps maintain the cost of Medicare.
The actual Medicare Flex Card is not a scam. It is a benefit that some Medicare Advantage plans offer.
However, some Medicare scammers claim the flex card is from Medicare or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). That claim is a scam because Original Medicare doesn’t offer flex cards. Instead, you must qualify for a flex card through a Medicare Advantage plan.
Read more by Renee van Staveren