If you're on Medicare, be aware: You will not be receiving a new chip card to replace your paper ID card. If somebody tells you that, they're lying. It's the latest Medicare scam.
A 73-year-old widow in a small town in North Dakota learned about it the hard way. Early in September, a man called unexpectedly and offered her a plastic chip card to replace her paper Medicare ID.
A chip card, the size of a debit or credit card, contains a microchip to encrypt transactions for greater data security. But protecting your data is the last thing bad actors want. Often they aim to defraud the taxpayer-financed Medicare program — or to steal your identity and rip you off.
Personal questions, and many of them
Unfortunately, this widow gave the scammer her Medicare number, which officials say should only be provided to health care professionals whom you trust, such as doctors, pharmacists and insurers.
"To take advantage of somebody who is older, that's disgraceful,” said Jennifer Wolff, 64, the victim's sister, who alerted AARP's Fraud Watch Network helpline, 1-877-908-3360, about the scam. The victim is not being identified for this story.
Wolff knew the caller was a scammer from the get-go. She works with a local hospital and community health center, visiting older folks in their homes to ensure they have the services and equipment they need. Her work led her to suspect that the caller asked about her sister's physical attributes, such as her height, weight and pants size, because he wanted to cheat the government by billing for unneeded durable medical equipment (DME).
Scam calls go out statewide
The North Dakota widow is not alone. About 40 or 50 other residents in the state recently received similar calls, and a number of them also divulged their Medicare numbers, said Assistant Attorney General Parrell Grossman, who directs the Consumer Protection & Antitrust Division in the state attorney general's office.
A consumer alert to North Dakotans is going out soon, said Grossman, who called the scam “particularly dangerous” since some consumers gave up what he called “unique” and “important” identifiers.