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Medicare fraud happens every year: figures from the AARP report that Medicare fraud losses hit $60 billion in 2017 and continue to rise. Every year, scammers come out around the annual Open Enrollment period, waiting to take advantage of vulnerable, elderly Americans. By taking your information, they can use it to file false claims, obtain pharmaceuticals to sell illegally, or even obtain treatment for themselves under your name. Many Medicare plans have annual caps on reimbursements and fraudulent claims may reach those caps, preventing a beneficiary from using the actual benefits when needed. In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, it’s a good idea to know what Medicare scams look like. Below, I’m covering a few common ones. 

Phone Calls

Some scammers may try to call you threatening to cancel your coverage unless you update your information. The first rule with Medicare is that, unless you initiate the request, they will NEVER call you. These scammers are notoriously aggressive, calling you multiple times until you relent. Commonly, they will introduce themselves as medicare agents asking you to verify your new card number. The best course of action, in this case, is to simply hang up. Another scam phone call can come from people trying to sell Medicare insurance plans or updating current policies by phone. The goal is to get you to hand over your personal information and money by selling you an illegitimate product. You can find all approved plans on the Medicare website in its Medicare Plan Finder, and if you have any questions, you can always contact a certified insurance broker. 

Bills from Unknown Providers

Many people will pay these phony bills thinking that they’re receiving another charge from a recent medical procedure or a portion not covered by Medicare. To protect yourself from this tactic, keep a detailed calendar of your health care services and compare against your bills. If a bill looks suspicious, don’t be afraid to contact the billing department of your medical facility or your insurance provider and ask if the charge is valid. 

What should you do if you suspect Medicare fraud? Be sure to report it by calling 1-800-MEDICARE, contacting the Office of Medicare’s Inspector General, or through the Federal Trade Commission’s website. Include any information that can help the government find the scammers, including the phone number of the caller.