If you get a phone call from someone purporting to be from Medicare, hang up — and report the call.
That’s the advice in a new public-service announcement created by the Federal Trade Commission in collaboration with AARP.
Identity thieves are targeting Medicare recipients to obtain money or their Medicare, personal or banking information, the FTC warns.
Scammers use various ploys to obtain the information, saying in some cases that a new card is being sent out and the call recipients need to provide the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, or they’ll be charged a fee.
Sometimes scammers promise free services or equipment, such as a back brace or neck brace, in exchange for Medicare information.
Or to wheedle sensitive data from you, they pretend there are new policies or updates.
Whatever the ruse, don’t comply since Medicare does not telephone recipients. Instead, contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by calling 800-MEDICARE.
Hundreds of thousands victimized
Government impostor scams made up nearly half of the 535,417 impostor scam reports made to the FTC in 2018, the agency says. Eighteen percent of the people who complained to the agency said they lost money in such scams, and overall losses totaled nearly $488 million — more than any other type of fraud — with a median loss of $500.
Bad actors operating government-impostor scams falsely claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration or another agency to try to pry money or personal information from people, the FTC says.
Heed the FTC's advice
Here are more tips from the Federal Trade Commission.
- Hang up. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information to get your new card or new benefits, that’s a scam.
- Don’t give personal information to a caller claiming to be from Medicare. You can’t trust caller ID since these calls can be "spoofed" so they look like they’re coming from Medicare when they’re not.
Caller ID spoofing occurs when callers deliberately falsify the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Some robocallers use “neighbor spoofing” and display a phone number similar to your own on your caller ID to increase the likelihood you will answer the call.
- Initiate your own call to Medicare, at 800-MEDICARE, before giving out any personal information. Use the same number to report Medicare impostors.
- Tell the FTC about the call. To file a complaint with the FTC, visit FTC.gov/complaint or call 877-FTC-HELP.