(BPT) - Since 1965, Medicare has provided health care coverage to millions of Americans. Almost 64 million people in the United States were enrolled in Medicare as of October 2021, with more people becoming eligible and enrolling each year. Anyone on Medicare is at risk of Medicare-related fraud, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to warn people to watch out for scammers who steal Medicare Numbers and other personal information to exploit beneficiaries' benefits.

Broadly speaking, Medicare fraud occurs when someone makes false claims for health care services, procedures and equipment to obtain Medicare payments. Medicare fraud costs taxpayers billions of dollars and puts the health and welfare of beneficiaries at risk. The impact of these losses and risks is expanding as Medicare continues to serve a growing number of beneficiaries.

'Medicare fraud is a serious issue that has affected millions of people in our country,' said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. 'Anyone on Medicare is at risk of being a target of Medicare fraud, so you should use the CMS fraud tips to stay alert to protect yourself. By being aware of potential scams and reporting any you come across, you can do your part to protect yourself and others from Medicare fraud.'

How to spot Medicare scams

There are many types of Medicare scams, taking the form of unsolicited emails, phone calls, text messages, social media posts and phony websites. Scammers often claim to be from the Medicare office, an insurance company or a government office. They'll ask for your personal and financial information, such as your Medicare or Social Security Number, so that they can submit false claims for payment.

Remember that Medicare will never call, text, email or contact you through social media asking for your Medicare Number.

Some common Medicare scams to watch out for include:

  • Offers of 'free' genetic testing
  • Calls or emails about free medical equipment, such as a knee brace, walker or cane
  • Solicitations for other services, such as offers of 'paid' clinical research trials

While this is not a comprehensive list, these examples give you an idea of how to spot potential Medicare fraud. Scammers will do their best to present these services and products as genuine in exchange for your Medicare Number.

How to protect yourself

Now that you know how to spot Medicare fraud, you'll need to know how to protect yourself from potential fraudsters. Remember to:

  • Guard your Medicare Number just like your Social Security card and credit card
  • Share your Medicare Number only with trusted health care providers
  • Review your Medicare statements, watch for services billed that look suspicious, and ask questions if something looks wrong

How to report scammers

Reporting Medicare fraud protects you and millions of other people with Medicare and those with disabilities. If you or someone you know have experienced Medicare fraud or suspect an offer you've received is a scam, report it as soon as possible. You will never be in trouble for reporting fraud.

To learn more about Medicare fraud, visit Medicare.gov/fraud. To report potential Medicare fraud, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.