The concept of financial scams isn't a new one, and unfortunately, seniors tend to be particularly prone to them in general. Introduce a pandemic, and you have the makings for financial ruin among our country's most vulnerable.
It's not surprising, then, to learn that Medicare scams are on the rise because of the COVID-19 crisis. Here are a few red flags you should look out for to avoid being a victim.
1. Random callers asking for your Medicare number
As a general rule, Medicare will not call beneficiaries and randomly ask them to verify their benefits. If someone calls you and asks for your Medicare ID number, don't give that information up.
2. Callers requiring your Social Security number
Your Social Security number is powerful means of identification. Once a criminal has your Social Security number, he or she can do a number of terrible things with that information, like open a credit card in your name and charge expenses on it, or possibly even file a tax return in your name and steal any refund you might be due. If someone calls claiming to be a Medicare representative who needs your Social Security number to process a health claim, don't share it. Keep in mind that Social Security numbers were specifically removed from Medicare cards to help keep them protected, so do your part to avoid having yours get compromised.
3. Any email or phone request asking you to send money
Medicare isn't in the business of selling prescriptions over the phone or asking seniors to pre-pay for services. If someone calls asking you to send money or give out credit card information to score a great deal on medication or health services, don't buy into it.
4. Any solicitation promising early access to a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine
Unfortunately, scientists have yet to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that can be safely and widely administered. Similarly, there's no mail-order treatment you can stock up on to protect yourself in case you're struck with the virus. As such, do not believe anyone who calls you claiming to be from Medicare offering you a chance to get in on a groundbreaking medication. And certainly don't pay that person money or share your Medicare ID number during that conversation. Rest assured that once an effective vaccine becomes available, Medicare will pick up the tab, and that information will be communicated broadly.
5. Anyone who comes to your door claiming to be from Medicare
Medicare does not have the resources to send representatives to your door to check on you. If someone claiming to be from Medicare asks to enter your home, lock the door and demand that that person leave immediately. And if he or she doesn't, don't hesitate to call the police.
At a time when so many seniors are worried, isolated, and struggling financially, the last thing you want is to fall victim to a scam. The more you read up on what common fraud attempts look like, the better positioned you'll be to protect yourself. And if you do get a suspicious email or phone call, don't hesitate to report it at 1-800-MEDICARE. In doing so, you might prevent a fellow senior from falling into what could be an extremely dangerous trap.