Medicare scams center around issuance of new cards

The following news report is about a new phone scam circulating Iowa focused on tricking seniors into giving out their Medicare and personal information in order to receive their new Medicare cards. Medicare will NEVER ask for that. Please be aware and report Medicare scams or fraud attempts to the Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-803-7174.

Sunday, February 4, 2018
By Colin Van Westen, Daily Reporter Staff

A new phone scam is circulating in Spencer focused on tricking seniors into giving out their Medicare and personal information in order to receive their new Medicare cards. 

"(Scammers) are calling, asking for their card numbers and to verify their personal information and threatening to cancel their health insurance plans," said Nancy Ketcham, elder rights specialist of Elderbridge. "They are also saying that their Medicare will be canceled if they don't get your number now. Don't ever share your Medicare number or your personal information with people because Medicare won't ever call people and tell you that anyway."

Federal officials will be issuing new Medicare cards to all beneficiaries starting in April of this year and continuing through April of 2019. 

"(The scam) is a more recent thing with the new cards coming out," Ketcham said. "Scammers and frauds know that this happening, they are probably just trying to get that information."

While Ketcham notes that other scams aimed at the senior community have come through email or text, this particular scam has only been perpetrated by phone. Beneficiaries also have to be careful of fraud. She said the best way to prevent fraud is to review the explanation of benefits sent to beneficiaries after they visit the hospital or a doctor. 

"Some people get them (explanation of benefits) and just throw them away without looking at it because it is kind of complicated," Ketcham said. 

Sue Pleggenkuhle, Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol coordinator of volunteers and training, said Iowa will not be in the first wave of mailing for the new Medicare cards. This means that Iowans should not expect their new cards until after May.

Pleggenkuhle pointed out old Medicare cards should be destroyed once the new card arrives, new cards should be kept with you and Medicare Advantage Cards should still be carried by beneficiaries. 

Medicare cards are sent to beneficiaries within three months of their 56th birthday afer they apply online or at their local Social Security office. Fifteen percent of the U.S. population or 44 million people are enrolled in Medicare. In 2015, there were 571,956 Medicare beneficiaries in Iowa representing 18 percent of its total population. 

Mediare scams or fraud attempts can be reported to the Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-423-2449.