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As if things are not hard enough during this COVID-19 pandemic, there are people out there preying on our most vulnerable. Social Security Matters blog by Seema Verma, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, informed us that “scammers take advantage of the most vulnerable during time of uncertainty and change.”  Seema warns that Medicare beneficiaries are using the COVID-19 pandemic to steal Medicare beneficiaries, “Medicare number, banking information, or other personal data.” In order to protect yourself, Seema recommends to, “only give your Medicare number to your doctor, pharmacist, hospital, health insurer, or other trusted healthcare provider.”

In her blog, Seema states the following:

Medicare will never:

  • Call patients to ask for or verify Medicare numbers.
  • Call to sell you anything.
  • Promise you things if you give them a Medicare number.
  • Visit you at home.
  • Call you to enroll you in a Medicare program over the phone, unless you called them first.

Most people don’t know that obtaining Medicare information is a way for scammers to obtain your personal information in order to steal your identity and commit Medicare fraud!

Seema states, “If you suspect Medicare fraud, please report it by calling Medicare’s toll-free customer service center at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also visit Medicare online.

Scammers will use phone calls, emails, and letters.  The Inspector General for Social Security, Gail S. Ennis,  reported on March 27, 2020 that letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 related office closures.  She states that, “Social Security will not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed.” These scam letters state that benefits will be suspended unless the person calls a phone number that is in the letter. The scammers then pry personal information or payment from the person who received the letter.

In Gail’s blog, she states that Social Security will never:

  • Threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card.
  • Demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem.
  • Send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

Gail states, “If you receive a letter, text, call, or email that you believe to be suspicious, about an alleged problem with your Social Security number, account, or payments, hang up or do not respond. We encourage you to report Social Security scams using our dedicated online form.

It’s amazing what scammers can do with your personal information.  Please protect yourself!

Gina Elkins

Director of Compliance and Regulatory Strategy