INDIANAPOLIS — Scam calls are out of control, but one particular type is on the rise— scammers claiming to be from Medicare.
Jon O’Brien in Knox County Indiana contacted WRTV Investigates for help after getting bombarded with scam calls.
"The past month and a half I'm averaging 30-35 a day,” said O’Brien. “A majority of them are all local area codes from where I am from. Usually 812 area codes."
When O’Brien calls the numbers back, the people that pick up are confused because scammers are spoofing their phone numbers.
“They're actually real normal people they're using their number from,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien said most of the callers claim he’s eligible for Medicare Part B.
“I don't know how I got put on the eligible because I'm nowhere close to being the age of being eligible for Medicare,” said O’Brien.
U.S. consumers receive 4 billion robocalls a month.
Advanced technology is making it easier and cheaper than ever to call you and spoof caller ID to hide their true identity.
WRTV Investigates took our questions to Indiana Senior Medicare Patrol.
“All ages are getting these calls, but I think the older adults do tend to answer more,” said Nancy Moore with Indiana Senior Medicare Patrol.
Moore said complaints about Medicare-related calls are on the rise.
"These are just spam calls where they're looking for your information,” said Moore. “Information is the commodity of the 21st century."
Scammers are typically contacting you from call centers, looking for your Medicare number or Social Security number— information they can sell on the dark web.
"They're throwing spaghetti on a wall, seeing what sticks,” said Moore.
Scammers may lure you in with free offers or incentives on testing kits or medical supplies.
"Don't just order something from a phone call. Anything unsolicited you have to be wary of,” said Moore.
The best way to stop scam calls is to stop answering the phone. Do not pick up. Do not hit buttons.
"I made the mistake of answering it,” said O’Brien. “I think that's what got me on the hook with them and they realized there was a real live person behind that number and now they've just passed it along from one to the other."
O’Brien contacted the Indiana Attorney General’s office and signed up for the Do Not Call list, which will likely only keep away legitimate telemarketing companies.
He also contacted his wireless provider who had him install a scam blocking app on his phone.
O’Brien is thinking of taking a big step to get the calls to stop.
"The only option I may have is to change my phone number,” said O’Brien. “I hate to do that because I've had it close to 30 years."
WRTV checked with Medicare, and they emphasize they will never call you unless you’ve given them permission in advance or you’ve previously reached out to them for help.
You can reach Senior Medicare Patrol at 800-986-3505.
Tips from AARP on Stopping Scam Calls
- Add all your numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It won’t stop fraudulent calls, but it will make them easier to spot because most legitimate telemarketers won’t call numbers on the registry.
- Explore free and low-cost call-blocking options, such as apps and services that screen calls and weed out spam and scams. Ask your phone service provider if it offers any such tools.
- Verify the caller. If the robocall claims to be from, say, Social Security or your bank, hang up and look up the real number for that entity. Call and ask if it contacted you. Don’t judge a call by caller ID alone; phone numbers can be spoofed.
- Report scam calls to the proper authorities (see More Resources below). Every report helps authorities piece together a fuller picture of what scammers are doing.
- Review a company’s privacy policies before you give it permission to call you. You might be authorizing it to share your contact information with others.
- Don’t press any keys or say anything in response to a prerecorded message. This lets scammers know yours is a working number and will lead to more spam calls.
STATEMENT FROM CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES
“CMS is committed to preventing fraud and protecting people with Medicare from falling victim to scams.
It’s important to know that Medicare will never call someone unless that person has given the agency permission in advance, or has reached out to Medicare with a question or to ask for assistance. Medicare will never contact someone and ask for their Medicare number or other personal information unless that person has given the agency permission in advance, or initiated contact. Likewise, Medicare will never call someone to sell anything, nor can anyone promise a beneficiary services or benefits in exchange for providing their Medicare number over the phone. If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be with Medicare, hang up and don’t provide any personal information. For more information on spotting fraud or reporting an issue/concern, visit https://www.medicare.gov/forms-help-resources/help-fight-medicare-fraud [medicare.gov] or call 1-800-MEDICARE.
Preventing health care fraud is an important step to protect the Medicare program. CMS’ Health Care Fraud Prevention Campaign reminds people with Medicare and their caregivers how to spot, report and prevent Medicare fraud. Throughout the year, we conduct consumer outreach on the benefits of guarding your Medicare number and personal identification from scammers.
Our top tip is to guard your Medicare number just like your Social Security and credit cards. You should only share your Medicare number with trusted health care providers. For your reporting purposes, the following information may be helpful: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Components/CPI/CPIReportingFraud.
Consumers with any type of insurance can report suspected fraud by contacting the Health & Human Services (HHS) fraud hotline at: 1-800-447-8477 (1-800-HHS-Tips). More information on reporting Medicare Fraud can be found at https://www.medicare.gov/forms-help-resources/help-fight-medicare-fraud [medicare.gov]
For a local perspective and assistance, you can contact the Senior Medicare Patrol for Indiana—they help monitor reports of scams and potential fraud in your state, and do local outreach and education to Medicare beneficiaries and their families/caretakers. Here is their website: Indiana Area Agency on Aging Senior Medicare Patrol [iaaaa.org], and their phone number is 1-800-986-3505.”