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How To Avoid Medicare Scams: Things To Look Out For

By Zawn Villines
Medicare scams cost seniors billions each year. Watch for these warning signs that a Medicare solicitation might not be legitimate.

Medicare scams cost consumers and the government billions each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. Falling for one of these scams may mean paying for services you do not receive, missing the Medicare enrollment period because you enrolled in a fake plan, or giving away information that enables a criminal to steal your identity. But you can help protect yourself by knowing what to look for if someone contacts you about your Medicare coverage. 

Some Medicare scam warning signs include:

Aggressive or threatening tactics

Fraudulent sellers of Medicare plans may call many times throughout the day, leave numerous voice mails, or call you back even after you hang up.

Some use threats to gain compliance. For example, a caller might tell you that your Medicare plan will be canceled if you do not give them your information, or threaten to have you arrested if you don't verify your identity. The government will not call you and threaten you about your Medicare plan.

Unsolicited phone calls

Medicare scammers may pretend to work for the government or claim to represent legitimate insurance companies. They can even change their caller identification information to make it look like they are calling from your local Medicare office.

The government will not call you to sell you a Medicare plan.

Identity verification

Fake "identity verification" scams are an easy way for criminals to get your Social Security number, full name, home address, and other information that enables them to steal your identity. Sometimes they even ask for a credit card number for verification purposes, as a way to access your financial accounts.

Medicare does not contact consumers over the phone or email seeking to verify their identities or get credit card information. If you're not sure whether a call is real, contact Medicare directly on The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare online or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. You can ask if the agency has recently contacted you.

Email solicitations

A few simple design tools can make an email look like it came from Medicare or an insurance provider. Scammers can even spoof Medicare email addresses, or redirect you to a web page that looks identical to the real Medicare page.

Never give personal information to someone who contacts you via email, even if they seem legitimate. Instead, log in to your Medicare or insurance account to update your information and verify your data. Do not log in to this account by following links in email, since doing so may redirect you to a fake page.

Mail solicitation

While some Medicare plans and service providers may contact you through the mail, many scammers also send fake plan documents. Rather than directly responding using the contact information listed in direct mailings, research plans on the Medicare page or on your preferred Medicare Advantage insurer's website. You can enroll in Medicare online or at a local office, so there is no need to enroll via mail.

Door-to-Door Sales

Insurance agents cannot show up at your house to sell you a plan without an appointment. This means that a door-to-door solicitor offering to sell you a plan is likely a scammer. Do not give them personal information or allow them into your home.

Even if you do make an appointment with an insurance agent, check with your state's insurance commissioner to ensure the agent is authorized to sell plans. Otherwise, they may be selling fraudulent insurance. You can use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' official website to search for your insurance department's contact information by state or jurisdiction. 

Reporting Medicare scams can save seniors time and money. It also helps the government prosecute thieves and other scammers. Tell the Federal Trade Commission about suspected scams on their official "FTC Complaint Assistant" page.