In a short but comprehensive podcast, Micki Nozaki, our Senior Medicare Patrol Project Director, outlines three current areas of Medicare fraud, including COVID scams and provides great tips to avoid them.
Durable Medical Equipment Scams
The first area Nozaki reviews are the classic durable medical equipment (DME) scams, where beneficiaries may respond to an ad in the paper, on the television or a phone call for a “free” back brace, knee brace, ankle brace, etc “covered by Medicare.” The only thing the scammer asks for is the beneficiary’s Medicare number. Beneficiaries who fall victim to these scams often get bombarded with boxes of “free” braces and other medical equipment they never ordered. These scammers take their Medicare number and use it to bill Medicare for numerous items they don’t need, as well as sell their number to other scam artists who also charge Medicare for equipment and/or services these beneficiaries never receive or need. To prevent this type of fraud, Nozaki reminds people contact their provider directly to for any Medicare-covered durable medical equipment if/when they need it. Do not respond to solicitations. And never give out your Medicare number to anyone besides your provider.
Next Nozaki touches on the prevalence of telephone fraud and provides a helpful tip to avoid being scammed. Keep a script by the phone that says, “I don’t give my personal information to unsolicited callers.” That way a decision is already made. If/when a scammer calls, you can just read the script and hang up. It’s best not to engage with a scammer because they’re pros at what they do. Don’t give them a chance. Just hang up.
COVID-19 scammers are out in droves because they capitalize on two things: fear and confusion, and the pandemic provides plenty of both. Right now many COVID scams involve COVID tests and vaccines. Here are a few of the ones Nozaki mentions in the podcast where scammers:
- Try to sell vaccines. (Note COVID-19 vaccines will be available at no cost to all people.)
- Put ads on Craigslist for vaccines saying if you give them your credit card number, you’ll be put to the top of the list.
- Send text messages to set up a vaccine appointment for a fee.
- Offer home delivery of a vaccine. All that is needed is your credit card or your Medicare number.
All of these are scams. We’ve even heard of a person being charged $295 for their COVID vaccine. In another case, a beneficiary went to their neighborhood pharmacy to get a vaccine and was charged a $95 “administrative fee”. This is not right. Medicare covers the COVID vaccine at no cost to you. If you come across any of these or similar scams, hang up, delete the text and don’t engage. Also, report them to our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-8070.
For reliable, current, unbiased information and assistance with Medicare and other health care related questions, contact your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). They are available in every county and provide telephone and online appointments during the pandemic.
Click here to hear the full podcast with Micki Nozaki.