Who wouldn’t want something valuable for free? No one, which is why the free health screenings that you often see at fairs, malls and community centers are so popular. Eye tests, stroke screening, cholesterol screening and blood pressure measurements are just a few of the “free” medical care that you find being offered. In many instances, these screenings are actually both legitimate and free, but in many other instances, they are fraud used to steal from Medicare or make you a victim of identity theft.
People doing free medical care services as a scam may even appear to perform the tests that they appear to be offering, however, the scam comes in when they start taking personal information from you such as your name, Social Security number or Medicare number. It is important to remember that Medicare has used a person’s Social Security number as his or her Medicare number since the inception of Medicare and despite the rest of the country recognizing that this puts Medicare recipients in serious danger of identity theft, Medicare resisted changing the Medicare number to a safer random number for many years.  It wasn’t until this year that Medicare began the switch to randomly generated numbers for your Medicare number. The switchover began in April with new cards being sent by regular mail to Americans enrolled in Medicare. Between April 2018 and December 31, 2019 a Medicare recipient can use either his or her old number or the new, more secure Medicare number.  Starting in 2020 only the new numbers will be used.
There is no valid reason for someone performing a free medical screening to have your Social Security number. The scammers ask for it to get it and use it to make you a victim of identity theft. If you are a Medicare recipient and haven’t received your new card yet, you are effectively also turning over your Social Security number to a scammer who can use the number to make you a victim of identity theft. However, even if you do have your new Medicare card, you could be turning it over to a scammer who may not be providing a legitimate service, but will be billing Medicare on your behalf which can be both problematic to you when you attempt to access your Medicare benefits and also harms the country. Medicare fraud accounts for losses of as high as 60 billion dollars to taxpayers each year.
TIPS
Never give your Social Security number or Medicare number to someone offering a “free” health screening. Never arrange for lab tests unless the tests have been approved by your primary care physician. Always check your Medicare or other medical insurance statements whenever you receive them to confirm that you or your insurance provider has not been charged for services that you did not receive or authorize. As for those of you on Medicare, if you have a question about your new Medicare card, you can call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.
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