In the modern era, scams have become a fact of life. Email spam, suspicious phone calls, fishy websites, and even social media ads can hide complicated scamming operations. Across all platforms, scams are only after one thing: your hard-earned money.
The data on scams is concerning. According to Truecaller, 26% of Americans reported losing money over the phone to scammers. In 2022, it is estimated that phone scammers made off with over $40 billion dollars in profits. The FTC has done numerous in-depth explorations on scams and fraud, revealing that the median loss of reported fraud was $500 in 2021.
Despite what some may say, everyone can fall victim to fraud. 31% of people 18-59 reported losing money through a social media scam, while only 15% of people over the age of 60 reported such losses. Scams affect everyone, regardless of age or demographic.
Here at Senior Benefit Services, we endeavor to provide you with the resources and knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your coverage. Unfortunately, the world of Medicare is fraught with scams targeting your personal information and your income, especially during AEP. By increasing our awareness of scams and fraud, we reduce the risk of falling prone to such schemes.
According to the FTC, 24% of phone scams initially contact victims aged 60+ over the phone. These scams can take a variety of different forms and may ask for different pieces of information. Phone scammers can also spoof their phone number to make it look like the call is coming from an official source. Phone scams are versatile, and potentially the most dangerous to clients of SBS.
A throughline across many phone scam operations is that scammers will try to impress upon their victims that there is something urgent to handle. For example, They may offer a unique, one-time benefit to planholders if the victims provide their personal information. On the other side of the spectrum, scammers may threaten that victims will face consequences if they do not comply.
Phone scams rely on convincing their victims to divulge personal information, such as medicare ID numbers or social security numbers, over the phone. The most reliable way to effectively curb scam calls is to ignore them or utilize a scam-screening app. CMS and your insurance carrier will never randomly call asking for your personal information; they have strict protocols to prevent private client information from being given to those who may exploit it.
Email scams account for 11% of all initial fraudulent contacts with recipients aged 60+. As with all scams, email scams want you to divulge private information, even if you don’t know that you’ve done it. They target Medicare plan holders with new tactics every single year.
Email scams might be the most common one you see, depending on how good your spam filter is. Email scams will frequently bombard their victims with a host of different tactics, including malicious email attachments and links to spoofed websites that can steal your information. As a general rule of thumb, always be sure to read the email address that you are receiving the email from. If it is not a government verified source, it could be a scam!
On social media, fraudsters have had to innovate and find new ways to trick people into divulging private information. A new tactic we’ve seen is social media posts and advertisements concerning free covid tests that planholders can receive by providing their Medicare information. These scammers take that personal information and then bill fraudulent charges!
Social media scams can also take place in private messages. Fraudulent social media accounts will sometimes message their victims using similar tactics we’ve discussed previously. The cadence of these messages, as is common with most scams, is that there’s something urgent that can only be resolved if the receiver of the message sends private information immediately.
Fraudsters are crafty. They are constantly evolving their playbook to find ways to illegally obtain your information. One thing that has never changed, however, is their goal. Since they are after your information, and your money by extension, scam behavior follows a pattern. While there is no surefire way to avoid fraud, here are some tips to protect yourself against these criminals:
- Use a heavy dose of skepticism. If you are getting a call that you do not recognize, it could be a scam! Newer smartphones can notify you if you are receiving a call from a verified source.
- Google the potential scam to see if it is real. Scams generally contact their victims en masse. If someone has reported a similar call or email as fraudulent, then it may be safe to assume that you were contacted by scammers.
- Avoid clicking links from untrusted sources. Even clicking on a malicious link can be enough to do damage!
- Never give private information to someone you don’t trust or recognize. Although it may seem insignificant, scammers can do a lot with only a few pieces of information.
If you feel as though you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent organization, the FTC encourages consumers to report fraudulent activity by going to www.ReportFraud.ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
Federal Trade Commission, “Free COVID test scam targets people on Medicare”, August 23 2022
Federal Trade Commission, “Who experiences scams? A story for all ages”, December 8 2022
Federal Trade Commission, “Protect yourself against Medicare scams”, March 15 2019
Truecaller, “2022 U.S. Spam & Scam Report”, May 24 2022
CNBC, “Medicare scams are on the rise. Here are four tips to avoid them”, July 21 2022