For seniors, a seemingly helpful call can actually be a trap that leads to medical identity theft.
Asking about health concerns, a caller offers assistance in navigating the sometimes complex Medicare reimbursement system. Some seniors may feel it’s too good to be true — and they’re right.
Because of the potential payoff that comes with Medicare scams, criminals are now targeting seniors at an increasing rate and exposing these vulnerable victims to identity theft.
Older Victims, Newer Tactics
Seniors are already among the groups most targeted for identity theft and medical identity theft. They tend to have strong credit histories, lower amounts of debt and even a “nest egg” for expenses. Scammers particularly prey on seniors who are trusting, show signs of loneliness or worry about appearing rude to callers.
According to the FBI, people who grew up between 1930 and 1960 were generally raised to be polite, and con artists know it’s difficult for them to say “no” or hang up the phone. That’s why Medicare scams usually come in the form of calls rather than emails or texts.
Recent changes in Medicare and other health insurance choices are making the situation even worse, since seniors can be confused about their options and welcome advice on what they should choose. Scammers then use the victim’s Medicare information to commit medical identity theft by posing as the senior or commit fraud by filing false claims.
Know the Games
Here are some common scams that you and the seniors in your life need to know about:
- Free equipment: In a Medicare scam, callers might offer products that are “covered” by insurance, such as blood pressure cuffs, knee braces or glucose measurement devices. The scammers offer to file a claim on behalf of the senior in order to gain information like Medicare number, address, Social Security number and other details that can be used for medical identity theft. Sometimes, products actually do arrive, but they’re often shoddy quality, and worth far below the cost that the scammers might submit to Medicare.
- Phony services: Similar to promises of “free” medical equipment, a caller might offer specialized services that are specifically geared toward seniors. These might include physical therapy for arthritis, pain management for chronic conditions and home nurse visits. Some scammers even claim that Medicare covers housecleaning services.
- Health survey: In this scam, a caller will pretend to be from a marketing company that’s collecting information for Medicare or from an independent research firm. Because there’s no sales pitch, seniors might be more inclined to answer. But at the end of the call, the scammer will need to “verify” the senior’s demographic data, which includes handing over a Medicare number.
With the rise of medical identity theft, it’s more important than ever for everyone to protect their information. Make sure the seniors in your life aren’t at risk. Have a frank conversation about the topic, and let them know that even the “nice-sounding callers” can pose a threat when it comes to identity theft. Legitimate healthcare practitioners don’t call people at random to build a client base, and they certainly don’t collect Medicare numbers over the phone.