Fight Fraud by Guarding Your Medicare Number

Fight Fraud by Guarding Your Medicare Number

Health care fraud drives up costs for everyone in the health care system. And Medicare’s Open Enrollment season (now through Dec 7) is one of the hottest times for fraud.

Fraud schemes often depend on identity thieves getting hold of people’s Medicare numbers.  So guard your Medicare number.  Treat it as you would a credit card.

Follow these important steps to protect yourself from fraud:

  • Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.  Medicare will NEVER contact you for your Medicare number or other personal information.

  • Tell your friends and neighbors to guard their Medicare number.

  • Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.

  • Review your Medicare Summary Notice to be sure you and Medicare are only being charged for actual services.

  • Be wary of salespeople who knock on your door or call you uninvited and try to sell you a product or service.

  • Don’t accept items received through the mail that you didn’t order.  You should refuse the delivery and/or return it to the sender.  Keep a record of the sender’s name and the date you returned the items.

And if you’re looking to enroll in a Medicare plan:

  • Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you about Medicare plans unless you gave them permission

  • There are no “early bird discounts” or “limited time offers”

  • Don’t let anyone rush you to enroll by claiming you need to “act now for the best deal”

  • Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds “too good to be true”

  • Any promotional items you’re offered to enroll in a plan must be worth no more than $15, and these items can’t be given on the condition that you enroll in a plan

A common ploy of identity thieves is to say they can send you your free gift right away – they just need your Medicare number to confirm.  Decline politely but firmly.  Remember, it’s not rude to be shrewd!

Call 1-800-MEDICARE to report suspected fraud.  Learn more about protecting yourself from health care fraud by visiting www.Medicare.gov or by contacting our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-7080.

This information was prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.