Personal Finance

Scam alert: Fake Medicare calls targeting recipients

Medicare recipients across the country are receiving calls saying they need to update their Medicare information to get a new card.

Scam alert: Fake Medicare calls targeting recipients

We're all familiar with scam calls targeting our phones these days, with many of us receiving several every week.

But as one woman learned, many of those callers this year are making false claims about being from Medicare, and it's very easy for a Medicare recipient to fall for one of them.

Jill Eilers is recovering from a knee replacement and is trying to stay on top of her bills and coverage. When she gets a medical-related call, she listens.

"I answer the phone and they ask if I am Jill, and I said, 'Yes,'" she said of several recent calls.

One sounded very important.

"They said they are with Medicare, and they want to send new cards due to the COVID situation, saying that things have changed, and they want to send all their customers new cards," she said.

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She started listening to the pitch. But when they asked for her Medicare number, Eilers realized she was about to be scammed.

Zulfikar Ramzan is with the company Aura, which provides theft protection services.

What scammers are looking for

Ramzan says there are two primary motivators for Medicare scams. The first is money. He said scammers want financial information, such as your credit card number.

"Maybe even create a sense of urgency for the victim to pay money to the scammer," he said. "He might say, 'By the way, your card is going to expire,' or, 'Here's a free kit to test for COVID. We just need you to pay for shipping.'"

The second motivator is getting your Medicare and insurance information to be used in fraud schemes later on.

"For example, can somebody get prescription drugs in your name using your insurance information," he said.

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Warning signs of a scam

Kathy Sokes, the director of fraud prevention programs with AARP, says Medicare will never call you unless you initiate the conversation.

She says hang up if you receive calls about:

- Updating your Medicare card

- Increasing your benefits

- Taking tests in order to keep your benefits

"They're going to say if you don't take this test, they are going to block your Medicare benefits, so then they use fear," Sokes said.

Eilers wants to get a message out to her older neighbors: Hang up on these calls.

"They prey on the older people because they know they are more likely to do what they want them to do," she said.