Tips for Seniors to Avoid Medicare Fraud

Medicare can be a significant benefit once you reach age 65, but that benefit requires enrollees to be aware of Medicare scam artists. Scammers are taking advantage of the confusion surrounding health care reform, the complexities of Medicare and, most of all, senior citizens themselves.

One of the latest scams involves fraudsters soliciting seniors by phone and offering free braces to treat back pain, according to a Medicare fraud warning from the Idaho Department of Insurance.

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To receive the devices, seniors are asked to provide their Medicare policy numbers. With this information, the scammers begin fraudulently billing their Medicare accounts, yet the promised "free" equipment never arrives.

When scammers are successful, health insurance premiums rise for everyone.

Common Medicare scams

  • Scammers approaching seniors in parking lots, shopping centers and grocery stores and offering free services in exchange for their Medicare numbers, according to, a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Scammers contacting seniors via email or phone and claiming to be working on behalf of the government. They ask Medicare recipients to make payments to Medicare by phone or online − or ask for personal information.
  • Fraudulent television commercials urging Medicare recipients to comply with the new health care reform law. According to AARP, these commercials instruct seniors to call a toll-free number and sign up for the "new government insurance."

How to detect Medicare fraud

  • Refuse to disclose your Medicare number, unless it is to a hospital or physician at the time of service. AARP recommends never giving your Medicare number over the phone or to any stranger. Safeguard all personal information just as you would a credit card number. Once thieves have gotten this personal information, they can be hard to stop.
  • Keep your Medicare or health insurance card safe. Carry it only when necessary. If you do lose your card, report it to Medicare immediately.
  • Carefully examine all medical bills, summary statements and, if possible, your medical records to verify that they match your own records. Confirm that no double billing has occurred. If there is a billing issue, contact your health care provider for resolution. If you suspect that fraud has taken place, report the incident to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General. recommends checking your credit report at least once a year to make sure you're not being billed for medical services you never received.