5 Tips to protect against Medicare Fraud in Palos Verdes

Perhaps you haven’t heard, but starting in April 2018, Medicare will issue new cards to all Medicare recipients. While we live in a somewhat “sheltered” community here, Medicare fraud in Palos

Verdes is alive and well.  So if you’ve come to this website and are over 65 or are friends with any Palos Verdes Seniors please be sure to spread this blog post to everyone who can benefit from understanding Medicare fraud in Palos Verdes issues.

One good thing Palos Verdes seniors will appreciate is that the new cards will no longer use Social Security numbers. Instead, members will be identified by a unique, eleven-character ID composed of numbers and letters. The reasoning is sound. The old cards contained social security numbers and getting rid of those numbers should help reduce fraud. According to Medicare, the new cards will be sent automatically, so there’s no need to do a thing. Unfortunately, that’s the end of the good news.

The 5 Tips to protect against Medicare Fraud in Palos Verdes

Everyone 65 or older, roughly 60 million people, have Medicare. Your insurance may be provided via a Medicare Advantage plan, or you may have a supplemental plan, but the bottom line is if you’re over 65, you’re in what is called the “Medicare market.” Because it would be nearly impossible to ship out all those new cards at once, the switch will take place over the course of one year.

With a target market of 60 million people, many with some form of cognitive impairment, and more than a year to run their scams, is it any wonder scammers are salivating over the potential windfall? Even seniors without a cognitive impairment risk falling into the trap of following the lessons we were taught early in life—be trusting, be polite. Both lessons are tools scammers can use to their advantage.

Scam tips to protect against Medicare Fraud in Palos Verdes:

Tip 1: Medicare will never call, email or text you to ask for your personal information. This means that if you receive a communication asking for your information, it’s a scam.

Tip 2: The new cards cost nothing. If you’re asked to pay a fee to expedite or process shipment of your new card, it’s a scam.5 Tips to protect against Medicare Fraud in Palos Verdes

Tip 3: Medicare will also not contact you via phone, email, or text to discuss your “new benefits” or find out if you’ve received your new card. If they do, it’s a scam. Medicare benefits are not changing just because new cards are being sent out.

Tip 4: If someone calls, emails, or texts you and claims your Medicare benefits are in danger of being cancelled unless you pay a fee or share your information, it’s a scam.

Tip 5: Medicare does not accept payment in the form of gift cards, wired money, or credit card. If someone asks you to send them money, it’s a scam!

Attached is an article by Kaiser Health News that further elaborates these scams and how to protect against Medicare fraud in Palos Verdes

Everything You Need To Know About The New Medicare Cards (But Beware Of Scams)

By Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News

In April, the government will start sending out new Medicare cards, launching a massive, yearlong effort to alter how 59 million people enrolled in the federal health insurance program are identified.

Historically, Medicare ID cards have been stamped with the Social Security numbers of members — currently, about 50 million seniors and 9 million people with serious disabilities. But that’s been problematic: If a wallet or purse were stolen, a thief could use that information, along with an address or birthdate on a driver’s license, to steal someone’s identity.

For years, phone scammers have preyed on older adults by requesting their Medicare numbers, giving various reasons for doing so. People who fall for these ruses have found bank accounts emptied, Social Security payments diverted or bills in their mailboxes for medical services or equipment never received.

The new cards address these concerns by removing each member’s Social Security number and replacing it with a new, randomly generated 11-digit “Medicare number” (some capital letters are included). This will be used to verify eligibility for services and for billing purposes going forward.

Such a major change can involve bumps along the way, so there will be a transition period during which you can use either your new Medicare card or your old card at doctors’ offices and hospitals. Both should work until Dec. 31, 2019.

If you forget your new card at home, your doctor’s staff should be able to look up your new Medicare number up at a secure computer site. Or, they can use information that’s already on file during the transition period.

“We’ve had a few people contact us and ask ‘If I don’t have the new card at a doctor’s appointment, does that mean my provider won’t see me?’” said Casey Schwartz, senior counsel for education and federal policy at the Medicare Rights Center. “That shouldn’t be an issue.”

Cards will be sent to people covered by Medicare on a rolling basis over a 12-month period ending in April 2019. Older adults in Alaska, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia will be the first to receive the mailings, between April and June, along with several U.S. territories — American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The last wave of states will be Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“If your sister who lives in another state gets her card before you, don’t fret,” the Federal Trade Commission explained in a new alert. Since the cards are going out in waves, “your card may arrive at a different time than hers.”

If you think Social Security might not have your current address, call 1-800-772-1213 or check your online Social Security account at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/, the FTC advised.

When you get your new Medicare card, don’t throw your old one in the trash. Instead, put it through a shredder or “spend time cutting it up with a pair of scissors” to make sure the part showing your Social Security number is destroyed, said Amy Nofziger, a fraud expert for AARP.

Those numbers remain sought-after by scammers, and AARP and Senior Medicare Patrol groups tell of receiving fraud reports related to Medicare cards since last year.

In one scam, reported by California’s Area 1 Agency on Aging, a caller purporting to represent Medicare or another government agency claims to need your bank account information so Medicare can arrange a direct deposit of funds into your account. The new Medicare cards are used as an excuse for the call.

In another, circulating in Iowa, scammers are threatening to cancel seniors’ health insurance if they don’t give out their current Medicare card numbers. “We’re telling people, don’t ever give someone this number — just hang up,” said Nancy Ketcham, elder rights specialist at the Elderbridge Agency on Aging, which serves 29 counties in northwestern Iowa.

A month ago, Alfonso Hernandez, 65, who lives in Moreno Valley, Calif., received a call from a man who told him, in Spanish, that Medicare was going to issue new cards and that he needed to verify some information, including Hernandez’s name, address and Social Security number.

“I said no, normally, I don’t give my Social Security number to anyone,” Hernandez said. At that point, the caller put his “supervisor” on the phone, who said the government needed to make sure it had correct information. Caught off guard, Hernandez recited his Social Security number and, “as soon as I did that, they hung up.”

“Immediately, I’m like ‘oh my God, what did I do,’” said Hernandez, who quickly contacted credit agencies to have them put an alert on his account. “I just keep praying that nothing happens.”

Just last week, California’s Senior Medicare Patrol program received a report of another scam detected in Riverside County: a caller claiming that before a senior can get a new Medicare card, he or she has to pay $5 to $50 for a new “temporary” card, according to Sandy Morales, a case manager with the program.

Nofziger of AARP said a Medicare representative will never contact an older adult by phone or email about the new cards and will certainly “never ask for money or personal information or threaten to cancel your health benefits.” The new Medicare cards are free and you don’t need to do anything to receive one: They’re being sent automatically to everyone enrolled in the program. Don’t give out any information to callers who contact you by phone, she advised.

If you suspect fraud, report it to the FTC , AARP’s fraud help line, 1-877-908-3360, or your local Senior Medicare Patrol program.

If you’re among nearly 18 million seniors and people with serious disabilities who have coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, keep the card that your plan issued you. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies, which have their own way of identifying members. Similarly, if you have prescription drug coverage through Medicare — another benefit offered through private insurance companies – keep your card for that plan as well.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente

Other Palos Verdes Seniors articles in which you might have interest:

Palos Verdes Senior Living

How to remodel a home for Seniors

How to Prevent Senior Scams

Palos Verdes Seniors Resource Page