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Free brace or DNA kit offer? A fee for a card? Be aware of these Medicare scams

How to avoid and report Medicare scams  

April 19, 2022

Have you ever received a call out of the blue claiming that your new, vital Medicare card is on the way, but you must verify your identity or face delays? Or the one where the helpful caller wants to send you a free brace or DNA test?  

If so, you were the target of a Medicare scammer looking to steal your personal information, or bill Medicare for unnecessary medical equipment you’ll never see.  

The Iowa Attorney General’s office receives a steady stream of inquiries from Iowans who have been on the receiving end of these types of calls.  

“It’s important for Iowans to protect their personal information, even in the face of persistent, legitimate-sounding callers claiming their health benefits could be in jeopardy,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.  

As with other government imposter scams, consumers have ways to protect themselves when it comes to scams claiming affiliation with your Medicare benefits.  

Know the Scam  

The Federal Trade Commission reports there are often several Medicare-related scams making the rounds at any given time. The most recent iterations include:  

Free braces: A caller claims to be from Medicare and offers you a “free” or “low cost” knee or back brace. The caller then asks for your Medicare information and uses those details to bill Medicare for the unnecessary brace or other medical equipment. While Medicare may cover the cost of this brace, the ploy uses your medical benefits, meaning you might not be able to get the right equipment later, if prescribed by your doctor.  

Free DNA kits: Much like the above scam, a caller claims to be a representative with Medicare and that by providing your personal information they will send you a free DNA testing kit to provide early diagnoses for diseases, such as cancer.  

New cards: While it’s true that Medicare announced back in 2018 that it would issue new cards to everyone with benefits, as it discontinued the use of Social Security numbers as account numbers, that roll out has long been complete. Yet, that hasn’t stopped scammers from using the change to obtain consumers’ personal information. In some cases, the callers simply ask to verify information, while in others they claim you must pay a fee to receive the card.  

Benefit changes: The Iowa Insurance Division warns that some scammers will falsely allege that consumers will receive new, enhanced benefits – even a COVID-19 Medicare card – if they provide personal information or pay a fee. Conversely, some have claimed the card will be deactivated if the same ultimatum is not met.  

Avoid the scam 

  • Government agencies rarely, if ever, call consumers. If you receive a call from a government representative claiming you owe money or need to verify personal information, it’s almost certainly a scam.  

  • Be leery of caller ID. Scammers use spoofing to hide their real phone numbers. instead the caller ID will show what appears to be a legitimate number. It’s not, it’s still a scam.  

  • No one from Medicare will call you with offers of free or severely discounted medical equipment or supplies. If you need a brace or prescription, talk to your doctor.  

  • Do not pay for a new Medicare card. If someone claims you owe a fee for a card, hang up.  

  • If you suspect someone has used your Medicare information, check your Medicare Summary Notice for any unusual claims and report them to Medicare.  

If you believe you have been the victim of a Medicare scam, report it to Medicare by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800--663-4227), as well as to the FTC ReportFraud.ftc.gov. If you suspect Medicare fraud, errors, or abuse contact Iowa SHIIP/Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-800-351-4664 or www.smp.iowa.gov

AARP Telephone Town Hall Meeting - Wednesday, April 20 

Join Attorney General Tom Miller for the Fraud Prevention Telephone Town Hall hosted by the AARP Iowa at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. 

State Director Brad Anderson will lead a live discussion about fraud and scam prevention. The telephone town hall will include timely tips and tools you can use to spot and avoid fraud, especially related to digital technology and social media.

Register for the event here. Whatever phone number you provide will be called at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 20 and you’ll be connected to the live discussion with AG Miller and AARP Iowa.

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