Medicare beneficiaries are frequently the target of fraudulent schemes. You can help your clients avoid falling victim to one of these scams by doing two things. First, educate them on how these schemes work. Second, encourage them to register for the National Do Not Call List.
Common Medicare Schemes
Medicare schemes use various tactics. Recently, schemes have focused on COVID-19, including vaccine offers, but the details are always changing.
- Someone will call saying they want to confirm the beneficiary’s information – when what they really want is to steal the information.
- Someone will call saying they need immediate payment, and they will try to pressure the beneficiary into sending money.
- Someone will call offering a product or service. They may be after the beneficiary’s information, or they may involve in illegal billing fraud.
- Some companies may also resort to bait-and-switch tactics, luring Medicare beneficiaries with attractive offers and then trying to sell them something.
Registering for the Do Not Call List
The Do Not Call Registry tells telemarketers which numbers are considered off limits. Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry to prevent unwanted sales calls from companies they don’t know. This can reduce the number of calls they receive and help them avoid some sneaky sales tactics and bait-and-switch offers.
- Register your number at donotcall.gov. You will receive an email, and you will need to click a link to confirm registration.
- Both landline and cell phone numbers can be registered.
- Registration is free.
- It may take about 30 days for calls to stop.
- Unwanted sales calls can be reported after a number has been on the Do Not Call Registry for 31 days.
- Your registration does not expire.
- Some calls, including those related to debt collection, surveys, political groups and charities, are still allowed. Additionally, companies can call you if you’ve recently done business with them or given them permission to call.
Watch out for Scammers
Although signing up for the Do Not Call Registry can prevent unwanted sales calls from legitimate companies, including some that use slimy or high-pressured sales tactics, it will not prevent calls from the worst of the scammers. These scammers know they are operating illegally, and they’re not concerned with following the laws surrounding the Do Not Call Registry.
As a result, even after signing up for the Do Not Call Registry, Medicare beneficiaries still need to be on guard against scams.
- Block unwanted calls. The Do Not Call Registry does not actually block calls – it just tells telemarketers not to call certain people. Call blocking systems can actually block unwanted calls. The downside is that some legitimate calls may be inadvertently blocked as well.
- Hang up. When you get a call from a scammer, hang up. If you suspect that a call is from a scammer, don’t answer.
- Watch out for call spoofing. Scammers can “spoof” their phone number to mimic the number of a legitimate agency, such as CMS. If someone calls you out of the blue claiming to be from CMS, the IRS, or another agency and demands payment or personal information, you are most likely dealing with a scammer, even if the number seems right.
- Be wary of robocalls. Robocalls – where you get a recorded message instead of a live person – are often illegal scams.
- Report unwanted calls. You can report unwanted calls to the FTC. You can report Medicare fraud to Medicare.
Beneficiaries Need Trusted Agents They Can Count On
Medicare can be confusing. While many Medicare professionals follow the rules, others bend or break them with slimy marketing and advertising practices. Some even run television commercials to promote an ancillary service or product, with the ultimate goal of cross-selling Medicare.
Medicare enrollees need to know to watch out for these tactics. They also need to know where they can turn for trustworthy information and guidance. Warn your clients about Medicare schemes, encourage them to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry, and let them know you’re there for them.
Prevent scammers from getting a foot in the door. Stay in constant contact with your clients so when questions or concerns arise, they will turn to you rather than seeking answers elsewhere.