Senior citizens who are preparing to file for Medicare for the first time or those who need to make changes to their current coverage should be aware that scammers are using a false connection to Medicare to commit medical identity theft.
Sandra Guile of the Better Business Bureau of Cincinnati (BBB) has studied the issue and wants to bring it to the forefront of discussion for senior citizens who are prime targets.
She told the Journal-News that medical identity theft is different than regular identity theft because — instead of setting up false credit cards or withdrawing cash — someone uses your personal information to obtain medical care, buy prescription drugs or submit fake billings in your name.
“While there are a number of scams related to medical care, Medicaid or Medicare beneficiaries should be alert to a few common tactics criminals use when conducting a Medicare scam,” Guile said. “One frequent method fraudsters use is to pose as employees from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or some other false agency with a similar-sounding name.”
She added that the criminals will typically claim Medicare card holders are being issued new cards and they need to replace their current cards.
“The scammer states that in order to receive the new card, the recipient has to verify or update sensitive information, including their Medicare number which is associated with a Social Security number,” Guile explained. “Medicare officials have stated they don’t contact patients and ask for personal information like their Medicare or Social Security number via phone, in person or email.”
Another strategy scammers employ is to go door to door acting as an official Medicare agent. The person approaches a senior citizen and pretends as though they are selling Medicare insurance. They will also try unsolicited phone calls, according to Guile.
“These calls are usually characterized by an insistent sales pitch for medical services or prescription drug coverage,” she said. “The truth is, there is no such thing as a Medicare sales representative. If you haven’t requested information from the organization or haven’t asked for an agent to contact you, BBB advises against reacting to a sales pitch from an uninvited source.”
Laurie Petrie from the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, which serves residents in Butler and Warren counties, said Medicare’s open enrollment period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7) is prime time for scammers.
”ProSeniors is an excellent resource for information on how to protect yourself from Medicare fraud, how to report suspected fraud, and what to do if you have been a victim,” Petrie said.
She added that, “ProSeniors also operates a program called Senior Medicare Patrol. Volunteers with this program educate seniors about illegitimate Medicare practices and they also work with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to reduce the number of scams that target older Ohioans.”
Petrie and Guile said if someone feels they are being scammed in regards to Medicare, they should contact the Office of the Inspector General, 1-877-438-4338) and report it. They also recommend reporting any Medicare fraud to Medicare.gov/fraud, (1-800-MEDICARE) and to BBB’s Scam Tracker. ProSeniors can be reached at 513-345-4160 or Info@proseniors.org.