For instance, if your doctor suggests additional procedures because they are “free,” he might be overreaching. In fact, no treatment is free — because Medicare has to pay even if you don’t. Extra charges not only cost taxpayers more money, but can drive up the cost of treatment for people who actually need it.
Also, if television advertising or telemarketing pitches make grand promises about how a device will change your life, or use high-pressure sales tactics for medical devices, this could be a warning sign, too. Never take an advertisement’s insistence that you should bill Medicare for a treatment over your doctor’s professional advice.
Medicare Fraud Case #3: Fake Providers
In 2012, an investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered about two dozen fraudulent or suspicious “medical providers” that were simply shell companies operating out of a UPS Store mailbox, some who which had stolen the medical licenses of legitimate doctors in the area.
Some of these fraudsters would then obtain Medicare numbers of real patients — either through theft or a slick telephone pitch or through door-to-door scams — then rack up charges.
How to Prevent It:
While it’s not a taxpayer’s job to hunt down fake providers, it is possible to alert Medicare regulators to their presence if an unknown provider pops up on your statement. As with false charges from a legitimate provider, you should call 1-800-MEDICARE if there is ever a foreign healthcare company or doctor on your statement.
And remember, your Medicare number (which is on your Medicare card) should be treated like a credit card number or a Social Security number. Never give this number out to anyone other than a legitimate healthcare provider, because that number gives criminals the ability to charge treatment in your name.
If someone calls or shows up at your door posing as a Medicare official and asking for your number, don’t give it to them. Medicare will never call, visit or sell you anything.
Medicare as a Gateway to Fraud
These are just a few of the most common ways Medicare fraud happens, but they surely aren’t the only ones.
Sometimes a scam artist doesn’t actually bill Medicare for fraudulent charges, but uses the good name of the program as a gateway to other forms of fraud.
Maybe they call you up and act like they are enrolling you in a Medicare prescription drug coverage program, asking for your Social Security number or even your first premium payment. Or maybe when enroll you in Medicare you are also “enrolled” in a package of pricey, non-healthcare products at the same time such as life insurance or an annuity.
The bottom line is that you should always be suspicious when you get unsolicited offers regarding Medicare.
There is no way to be 100% safe from fraud, but the same tips apply to Medicare scams as they do to identity theft and credit card fraud: Always protect your personal information, including your Medicare number and your Social Security number, and always check your bill for false charges.
Read More From ‘Cheated’
- 10 Internet Scams to Watch Out For
- Penny Stocks — How to Profit Without Getting Scammed
- 10 of the World’s Craziest Ponzi Schemes
- When Fraud Bites Business: Lost Fortunes, Reputations and Lives
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Write him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.