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5 Ways Medicare Theft Affects You Directly

How scam artists steal from you

Medicare card on top of money

Gregory Reid

Practices such as phantom billing, which means charging Medicare for services not delivered, leaves money in the hands of fraudsters.

Medicare fraudsters steal billions from the system and they can also have a direct impact on your wallet and medical records.

  • Medical identity theft happens directly to you when someone steals your personal information, especially a Medicare number, to get devices, treatment or medicine, and submits fraudulent claims under your name. Like all identity theft, medical ID thieves disrupt your life, but they can also tamper with your medical care, waste taxpayer dollars and land you in legal trouble. And unlike credit card losses, there are no consumer protections for medical losses.
  • Upcharging, also known as “up-code billing,” happens when Medicare is billed for a more expensive device or procedure than the one you received. Be vigilant in checking your Medicare statements, experts say; the thieves are sneaky, and you don’t want a false claim lingering on your records. If you find a discrepancy, call your doctor’s office first to rule out an innocent error. 
  • Phantom billing and double-dipping are fraudulent practices that also would show up on your Medicare statement. Phantom billing is simply charging Medicare for services not delivered. Double-dipping is filing duplicate claims for one service or procedure. If not caught and rectified, they could hurt your future health coverage.
  • Fake freebies aim to sucker you in to receive devices or services you may not need. Scooters, back braces and other devices that are offered at “no cost to you” are in many cases scams to defraud Medicare and give you an inferior product, if you get it at all. Under the federal False Claims Act, if you are part of a false claim operation — known to you or not — you may be liable.
  • Prescription fraud: Medicare crooks take your Medicare number and fill prescriptions that they then sell on the black market. Often you will find out you’ve become a victim when your own prescriptions are denied.

 Sid Kirchheimer contributed to this report.