Scammers are calling older Americans on the phone and telling them that they qualify for free medical equipment such as back braces, knee braces or other durable medical equipment.  They tell the seniors that all they need to do is to provide their Medicare number to the caller who purports to be a legitimate medical equipment provider.  Right away if you receive such a call, you should know it is a scam.  Unsolicited calls to people about providing such durable medical equipment is illegal and anyone making such a call is violating the law.   These unnecessary charges to Medicare cost all of us money and increase the cost of Medicare.  Some people receiving such a call may think that there is no harm to them personally, however, their Medicare benefits could be used up by claims for unnecessary equipment and not be fully available if and when they were needed.  In addition, for some Medicare recipients there is the risk of identity theft.  Medicare used a person’s Social Security number as his or her Medicare number since the inception of Medicare in 1965 until recently.  Now everyone on Medicare has received their new Medicare card with a randomly generated  ID number instead of the person’s Social Security number.  However,  until December 31, 2019 a Medicare recipient can use either his or her old number or the new, more secure Medicare ID number.  Starting in 2020 only the new numbers will be used.  Anyone now still using his or her old ID number who provides that number to someone offering free medical equipment will have turned over his or her Social Security number to someone who can use that for purposes of identity theft.

TIPS

Never provide your Medicare number to anyone asking for your number in return for “free”  equipment or services.  It is always a scam.  Also, if you are a Medicare recipient, switch immediately to your new randomly selected Medicare ID number rather than use your old card which has your Social Security number as your identification number.  As for phone calls purporting to be from Medicare itself, you should never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or any other personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone because you can never be sure they are legitimate.  Even if your Caller ID indicates the call is from Medicare, the IRS or some other legitimate organization, through a technique called “spoofing” your Caller ID can be tricked into making it appear that the call is legitimate.  If you get a call asking for personal information that appears legitimate, merely hang up and call the company or agency at a number that you independently know is legitimate to find out the truth.

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