From the office of: Congressman Seth Moulton
I wanted to flag something that the Medicare division of Greater Boston Legal Services informed our office of last week. They are concerned about potential scams as Medicare prepares to send out new Medicare cards to all 57.7 million Medicare recipients, replacing social security numbers on Medicare cards with unique Medicare ID numbers. As I’m sure you already know, this is an important step Medicare is taking to protect enrollees social security numbers. However, there is potential for new scams as Medicare sends out new cards. I’m reaching out to share some information from GBLS on possible scams to look out for (see blog post here and attached document). I hope this information will be helpful to the populations you serve.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Scammers Prepare to Target Seniors as Government Readies New Medicare Cards
It seemed like a good idea: Congress passed legislation back in 2015 that required the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to stop using Social Security numbers on seniors’ Medicare cards and start using a new, randomly-generated 11-digit number to identify each Medicare participant. The concept was to deter fraud by getting valuable Social Security numbers off Medicare cards and providing new cards and numbers to every single Medicare participant. All 58 million of them.
Unfortunately, ever-creative and flexible scammers will certainly soon start trying to exploit the switchover to new cards. Scammers have an arsenal of traditional weapons at their disposal but they’re most likely to employ one or more of the following:
- Make telephone calls masquerading as a government official to “inform” seniors of the card switchover and “explain” that they just need to “update” their information in order for the senior to get the new Medicare card. Reality: CMS will mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare participants automatically—participants need not do anything or pay anything in order to receive their new card.
- Make telephone calls pretending to be staff at your doctor’s office and asking for the new Medicare number “just to update our records” or “ensure correct billing.”
- Set up desks at local health fairs and offer “freebies” like nutritional supplements in exchange for seniors’ new Medicare numbers and other personal information.
What’s the harm in providing your Medicare number or other personal information? Simple: scammers can exploit your Medicare number to fraudulently bill Medicare for expensive healthcare equipment they never provided (think power wheelchairs or complex braces and splints). Then if you someday need similar equipment, CMS may refuse to supply it on the grounds that you’ve already received it.
How to protect yourself against the scammers? Remember a few fundamental rules:
- Safeguard your Medicare number! Treat your Medicare card and number (both your current and the forthcoming new one) like you would a credit card. Only give them directly to your healthcare providers!
- Remember that CMS will contact you only through written, mailed letters. CMS won’t call you, much less ask for your Medicare number or other personal information over the phone!
- Know that anyone requesting your Medicare number over the telephone is probably a scammer. So just hang up!
Credit: Better Business Bureau Consumer Education Blog