Critter Corner: How to Protect Yourself from Medicare Fraud

Dear Magic,

Our neighbor was a victim of Medicare Fraud. I would hate for the same thing to happen to me or a loved one. What should I look out for and how can I protect myself?

Pratekt Yorselff

Dear Pratekt,

Even though Medicare cards no longer contain Social Security numbers, there is still Medicare fraud that can target Medicare beneficiaries. Luckily, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from unscrupulous individuals looking to either steal your identity or scam you, and/or Medicare, out of money.

Follow these tips to protect yourself and to save money for both yourself and the Medicare program.

Knowing whom to trust with your Medicare info: There may be times when someone claiming to be from Medicare contacts you. The person might tell you that your new Medicare card has been mailed to you and that, in order to deposit funds into your account, he or she needs your checking account number. Other scams may target you by saying your Medicare card number or information must be updated. Don’t fall for these types of scam. Only give your Medicare card information to trusted doctors and other health-care providers that have been approved by Medicare; it’s important that you protect your Medicare number. When in doubt, you can always contact the customer service number on the back of your Medicare card for additional help and information.

Spotting fraudulent callers: Not every fraudulent caller is obvious. While some callers may sound suspicious in some way, sometimes the caller may appear much more authentic and professional. In either case, these callers may already have access to some of your most basic information, such as your first and last name and residential address, which creates a sense of legitimacy in the phone call.

Medicare doesn’t often call its beneficiaries and, when it does call, it won’t request you to hand over sensitive information. They already have it. If you join a private Medicare plan, such as Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you may be able to enroll over the phone and therefore are going to be giving sensitive information over the phone. There is nothing wrong with doing this, but you should be the one to make the call (instead of having someone call you) so that you know you are contacting a reputable source.

Fraudulent billing: Other examples of Medicare fraud are when a health-care provider bills Medicare for services or products you never received or tries to push you into getting services that you don’t think you need. Even when it’s the Medicare program that’s being cheated, and not you personally, Medicare fraud costs everyone money because it’s funded by your tax dollars.

This isn’t a complete list. If you’re suspicious of a caller who claims to be a Medicare representative, hang up and call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Another way to report Medicare fraud, even if you’re not certain that it happened, is to contact the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477 or visit Report Fraud Online.

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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