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Tips to protect yourself from Medicare scams

Dear Toni: I am concerned about a phone call I received from a “Medicare representative” 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 refused to give any personal information over the phone.

I’m concerned that I could have made a mistake and that I have missed the new Medicare card. What should I do or who should I call to see if Medicare is trying to contact me? — Deidre, Oklahoma City

Dear Deidre: Don’t stress yourself out, because there is not a new plastic Medicare card with a chip being issued. This is a scam targeting America’s Medicare population. Your Medicare card is still the same one you currently have.

Medicare and Social Security will never call and ask for personal or banking information. Medicare already has all the information needed to verify they are speaking with you when its agents call. If the government needs information from you, a letter would be sent from the specific government agency (such as Medicare), telling you what information is needed and how to contact them with any questions.

The most recent Medicare card update was in April 2019 to include a random identifier made up of numbers and letters. It no longer displays a Social Security number.

Taxpayers lose over $100 billion a year to Medicare and Medicaid fraud, according to the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association. When thieves steal from Medicare and Medicaid, there is less money available for health care claims.

The Senior Medicare Patrol helps Medicare beneficiaries learn how to detect fraud and abuse. You can report suspected scams to the SMP at 877-808-2468 or visit smpresource.org to find the nearest SMP office.

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, nothing is free. Those offers will be paid for by Medicare, and the scammer will use your Medicare number to do it.

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. If you have a Medicare question, email info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664.

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