(BPT) - Medicare fraud is not a new issue and long predates the pandemic, but during times of crisis, scammers often get more aggressive and creative with targeting seniors. Scammers have taken ample advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by offering Medicare beneficiaries fraudulent services, resources, or information about the vaccine in exchange for payment or their Medicare number and other personal information. Now, like always, guard your Medicare card.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is warning the public to be on the lookout for scammers using the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine distribution as an opportunity to steal the personal information of seniors and exploit their Medicare benefits. Medicare covers the COVID-19 vaccine, so there will be no cost to you. If anyone asks you to share your Medicare number or pay for access to the vaccine, you can bet it’s a scam.
To protect yourself from Medicare fraud, it’s important to understand how fraud happens so you can recognize the signs and know what steps to take to protect yourself.
How to spot COVID-19 Medicare scams
Fraudsters use various methods to approach Medicare beneficiaries. They may contact or target you through unsolicited emails, calls, texts, social media, or websites. In their outreach, they may claim to be from a medical office, insurance company, or may even impersonate a government official. It is important to note that some legitimate vaccine centers or administrators may reach out asking you to verify your Medicare number.
While actual scams may vary, there are some common themes. Scammers may claim that you can pay to put your name on a waitlist for the vaccine or pay for special access to the vaccine. Then, they may claim that they can provide these services in exchange for personal or financial information, like your Medicare number. Just remember, there is no cost for the vaccine; you do not have to pay for the vaccine itself, nor do you have to pay to get on a waitlist to get the vaccine.
Alongside false vaccine offers, scammers may attempt to steal your information by soliciting other types of services. These may include offers of “paid” clinical research trials, COVID-19 “cures,” additional medical testing such as genetic testing, procedures, or free medical equipment like test kits, masks, or back braces.
How to protect yourself
While scammers have become increasingly sophisticated, the good news is that you have the power to shut them down and protect yourself. Safeguard your Medicare number and help prevent fraud by following these easy tips:
- Guard your Medicare number just like your Social Security card and credit card. Only share your Medicare number with trusted health care providers, or verified COVID-19 vaccine administrators. The COVID-19 vaccine cost is covered by Medicare, but Medicare will never call, text, email, or contact you through social media asking for your Medicare number.
- Contact your local health department for more information about vaccines in your area. Each state has its own plan for how and when residents can get vaccines. You can also visit CDC.gov for information on vaccine distribution in your state, and for answers to common vaccine questions.
- Review your Medicare statements for accuracy. Watch for any services billed to your Medicare number that you don’t recognize and ask questions if something seems incorrect.
Spotting and reporting Medicare fraud is critical to protecting yourself and your neighbors. And don’t forget: there is no cost for the vaccine, so you should never have to pay for the shot itself or to get on a waitlist. When you do see a trusted health care provider or verified COVID-19 vaccine administrator, bring your red, white, and blue Medicare card or Medicare Number so your health care provider or pharmacy can bill Medicare. If you can't find it, you can also view your Medicare Number or print your Medicare card from your online Medicare account, or call us at 1-800-MEDICARE.
If you come across a COVID-19 vaccine scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission or call us at 1-800-MEDICARE. You can also check out CDC.gov for trustworthy information on the COVID-19 vaccine.
Information provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.