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How to stay safe from Medicare card scam, other fraudulent schemes

Dear Toni: I am very concerned about a phone call I received from “a representative with Medicare” asking all types of personal questions and informing me that there was a new plastic Medicare card with a chip like a credit card. I followed the advice from your Medicare webinar and refused to give any personal information over the phone.

I’m concerned that I could have made a mistake and that I have missed out on the new Medicare card. Would you please advise what I should do? — Deidre from Houston

Dear Deidre: Don’t stress yourself out, because there is not a new plastic Medicare card with a chip being issued. This is a new scam that is targeting America’s Medicare population.

Medicare and Social Security will never randomly call you and ask for your personal information. Medicare already has all the information about you that it needs. If it ever does require additional information, Medicare will send a letter telling you what specific government agency you should contact to provide it.

As for the Medicare card, it was updated in 2018 to a random identifier that includes numbers and letters and no longer uses a Social Security number. There are no new updates planned.

In March, the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association reported that more than $100 billion a year is being swindled by fraudsters from the Medicare and Medicaid programs nationwide. Fraud hurts America, because when thieves steal from Medicare, there is less money available for health care needs.

Senior Medicare Patrol helps those on Medicare learn how to detect fraud and abuse. To report a possible instance of fraud or abuse, call the SMP toll-free number at 877-808-2468 or visit its website at smpresource.org to locate your nearest SMP office. The SMP website discusses common Medicare fraud schemes involving COVID-19, genetic testing, hospice, Medicare cards and much more.

A few tips to help protect against Medicare fraud:

■ Have a safety script by your phone. Tell anyone who calls asking you for personal information that you never give it out over the phone. (Get your kids or a friend to help you write your script.) Stick to the script no matter what.

■ Never give your Medicare or Social Security number to strangers who call you on the phone, come to your door, or text or email you. Just like you tell your grandkids: Don’t talk to strangers.

■ Do not accept “free” offers in exchange for your Medicare number. Remember, there is nothing “free.” Those offers will be paid for by Medicare and they will use your Medicare number to do it.

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. She spent nearly 30 years as a top sales leader in the field. If you have a Medicare question, email info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664. Visit seniorresource.com/medicare-moments to listen to her Medicare Moments podcasts.

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