Montanans affected by Medicare scams
December 20, 2019
From Montana Senior Medicare Patrol
Multiple accounts of scam calls have been reported to Montana’s Senior Medicare Patrol, including three in Hill County.
Just this month, several Montanans, believing that they were talking to Medicare, gave out their Medicare numbers. Those calls included “your Medicare number is invalid” and “Medicare is replacing cards with one that has a chip reader,” and in all cases they asked to confirm the current numbers.
A direct result of people’s Medicare numbers falling into the wrong hands is the more than $21,000 in documented fraud cases sent on to the Office of Inspector General this year by Montana SMP, with two more cases being compiled as this goes to print. Nationally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services calculate fraudulent telemarketing and Durable Medical Equipment supplies at $60 billion in fraudulent Medicare payments each year. While the rollout of new Medicare cards better protects recipients, it does not protect Medicare.
Two of the Montana residents scammed this month also shared their Social Security numbers and bank account information in addition to their Medicare numbers.
“Once your Social Security number is out there, it’s a lifetime of monitoring,” Montana SMP Program Manager Renee Labrie-Shanks said.
Medicare representatives will never call and ask for personal information over the phone. If a beneficiary instigates a call, Medicare will need the Medicare number and birthdate in order to provide help. However, Medicare representatives will not initiate calls and ask for personal information.
People who receive a call asking for personal information, whether it be from Medicare or any source, should always err on the side of caution. According to Montana SMP, if something is urgent it probably isn’t legitimate. People should gather more information and hang up. People should never call the number back that was given, but rather look the number up independently either in a phone book or on the internet.
People who are really suspicious and want to know if the call is legitimate, or if they have given out personal information and it has to do with health care, should call their local Montana SMP at 1-800-551-3191.
Montana SMP is a program coordinated by Missoula Aging Services and partnered with local Area Agencies on Aging. This project was supported by a grant from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services. Points of view or opinions do not necessarily represent official ACL policy.