Every year, millions of seniors are targeted by scammers. In 2021, US consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud, and the FBI estimates that around $3 billion of losses are taken on by seniors. Unfortunately, Medicare-related scams, particularly Medicare scam calls, are a common way criminals take advantage of older adults.
The team at Chapter wants to shed some light on why scammers target seniors and provide 6 easy tips to avoid scams that prey on unsuspecting victims of Medicare.
Americans over the age of 65 make up about 16% of the US population, so why do seniors account for about 50% of losses due to scams? To start, seniors are often more trusting and polite. Respectfulness, coupled with a lifetime of building up savings and credit history, make seniors ideal prey. It’s important to note that scammers will not limit themselves to preying on wealthier individuals. Scams are most successful when done at scale, and scammers don’t generally care who they’re stealing from.
Many seniors aren’t aware of how they can report a scam. Others are too embarrassed to report they’ve been scammed or fear that in doing so, they’ll appear unfit to manage their finances. Both of these factors contribute to elder scams lasting longer, with a larger collective loss.
Seniors are also more likely to be targeted for scams because older adults use health care services more often. Scammers exploit this vulnerability by offering fake medical tools, fake Medicare plans, or free medical supplies.
It’s important to always be on the lookout for something fishy. Keep in mind that adults of all ages can be affected by a scam and that reporting your experience will only help others.
There are a variety of scams out there, from tech support scams to romance scams—and all of them can be detrimental. One subset of these fraudulent activities is Medicare scams, which are particularly common, in part because of the prevalence of Medicare among Americans over the age of 65. Unsolicited Medicare calls, unfortunately, happen more often than they should.
One common sign of a Medicare scam is when a person avoids naming a specific insurance company and rather poses as a Medicare representative. Another common Medicare scam to look out for is when a person requests sensitive information too soon into the conversation. If a person seems to ask for your Medicare card number or credit card number too quickly, it's likely a scam. These scammers may also pressure you with urgent language. They may say that if you don’t do what they ask, your Medicare coverage will end.
Medicare scam calls are becoming even trickier these days. Some Medicare phone scams may use technology to change the caller ID to make it seem like the phone number comes from a genuine Medicare office or a trusted healthcare or insurance provider. You may even get fake text messages for an account update or from someone posing as a trusted company or person.
Identity theft and Medicare fraud can be scary, frustrating, and disheartening. As a team of independent, licensed advisors, we wanted to share 6 of our best tips for avoiding Medicare scams.
Beware of any offers for "free medical supplies." Scammers may offer durable medical equipment or a medical checkup at no cost to you because “Medicare will cover it.” These thieves will then ask for your Social Security number or Medicare number to verify coverage for their shipping costs. Do not share this information.
A tactic that scammers often use is calling people to tell them they are eligible for a Medicare refund due to a change in their coverage. These callers typically ask for your Medicare number as well as your bank information. Do not share this financial information with them.
Did you know that scammers can create fake Medicare email addresses? They can even redirect you to a website that looks identical to the real Medicare.gov page. Never log into any accounts following links in an email since this could redirect you to a fake page. Instead, always log in to your Medicare or insurance account to update your information and verify your data.
Medicare beneficiaries should regularly review their Medicare and bank statements for anything suspicious or unauthorized charges. Report any suspicious activity promptly.
If you think that you've encountered a scammer, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Medicare fraud hotline.
Keep your Medicare card (and other Medicare information), credit card, Social Security card, bank account numbers, and other personal information secure. It's a good idea to shred documents containing sensitive information before throwing them away. Also, use strong passwords for your online accounts and always keep valuable documents on you when traveling.
Most importantly, if you get any unsolicited calls, emails, or in-person visits, do not share any personal information. Instead, call Medicare directly or call Chapter at (855) 900-2427 to speak with one of our Medicare consultants. Our advice is always free.