Should you or your loved one ever give out your Medicare number over the phone?

Absolutely not; says the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in a recent press release regarding several new scams that are singling out Medicare beneficiaries.

Scammers have long-sought to swindle seniors by posing as Medicare representatives. Here's how the story usually goes.

Phony Medicare Representatives Swindling Seniors

A beneficiary will receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Medicare office.

This alleged Medicare representative will generally take one of several different approaches; all of which share the same ultimate goal: stealing a senior's identity.

One tactic taken by fraudsters is to tell a senior beneficiary that they will soon be receiving a new Medicare card in the mail. But, in order to be able to use this new card, the beneficiary needs to provide personal information so that their identity can be verified.

The caller will then prompt the senior to provide their Medicare number or social security number and a few other personal details, just so that they can make sure the right card is being sent to the right person.

A twist on this approach is to offer free services for seniors in exchange for their Medicare number, again, under the guise of needing to verify the senior's identity. These callers come offering popular medical items, such as diabetic testing kits, and wheelchairs, at no-cost, if only the senior will share with them the string of digits on their Medicare card.

This particular strategy appears to be becoming very popular. Incidences of this scam have recently been cropping up all over the country, according to the BBB.

Unsolicited Calls From Medicare are Always Suspect

Another approach that faux-Medicare representatives will take is to call in order to tell a senior that they need to set up a direct deposit to their account in order to receive reimbursement from Medicare. Of course, the beneficiary will then be asked to give out personal financial information, such as account numbers, passwords and routing numbers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) offer a simple piece of advice to help prevent these Medicare masqueraders from stealing a senior's identity:

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"Protect your Medicare number. Keep this information safe. Don't give your information out over the Internet, over the phone, or to anyone who comes to your home (or calls you) uninvited."

Beneficiaries who contact Medicare directly by using the number on the back of their card, can safely give their information to the representatives they reach. However, unsolicited calls by people claiming to be from Medicare should always be considered suspect. Medicare will never call a beneficiary directly to ask their Medicare or social security number.

For more information on common senior scams and how to prevent your loved one from falling prey to fraudsters, see the following articles: