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Medicare scams are on the rise. Here’s how you can protect yourself

Medicare scams are on the rise. Here’s how you can protect yourself

Medicare is taking extra steps to ensure your security. Not all of them are working.

For starters, Medicare’s new ID cards — meant to curb ID theft by replacing the Social Security number with a randomly generated 11-digit code — have prompted a new wave of scammers.

In this latest attempt at medical identity theft, a caller posing as a Medicare representative will ask for payment in exchange for the new ID. (The cards, which will be automatically sent sometime between April 2018 and April 2019, are free and require no extra steps.)

The same goes for someone asking if you want to purchase Medicare’s prescription drug coverage, known as Part D. In this case, a scammer may try to persuade you to buy Part D or lose your Medicare coverage. (Part D is voluntary and has no impact on your health plan.)

Another common ruse is that you’re owed a refund from your insurance company and the caller needs your bank account number and Social Security number to deposit it. A similar fraud also involves a caller claiming to be with Medicare requesting to update or confirm your information.

In each of these attempts at medical identity theft, scammers can then use your insurance to see a doctor, obtain prescriptions, buy medical equipment or even file a false claim.

One study by the Ponemon Institute found the number of cases of medical identity theft jumped more than 21 percent in just one year, costing the average victim $13,500 to fix. It’s also one of the top complaints, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

With Medicare, as a rule, you will not be contacted over the phone — all communication is sent through the mail — so it is never OK to give out any personal data to a caller, particularly your Social Security number or banking information.

To report a suspected scam, visit the BBB Scam Tracker. Alternatively, if you suspect Medicare fraud, or need help with your Medicare coverage, you can call 800-MEDICARE or go to Medicare.gov.

More from Retire Well:
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Don’t let surprise medical bills drain your retirement
More retirees are choosing Medicare Advantage. Here’s why

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