Giving out your Medicare number over the phone can open you up to fraud, waste, and abuse. Medicare and other government agencies advise extreme caution before sharing this sensitive information.
What is the Medicare Number?
The Medicare Number is the unique identification number assigned to each Medicare beneficiary. It consists of 11 characters – letters and numbers.
The Medicare Number replaced the old Social Security Number-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) in 2018. It was changed to protect beneficiaries from identify theft and medical identity fraud.
This number is essential for filing medical claims, checking eligibility status, and coordinating benefits. It should be protected and only shared with trusted parties.
Official Guidance on Sharing Medicare Number
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) warns beneficiaries not to share their Medicare Number except with their doctor or other Medicare providers.
In their fraud prevention booklet, CMS states:
“Don’t share your Medicare Number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email, or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.”
They emphasize that one should treat their Medicare card like a credit card, and not give the number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it.
Likewise, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) advises consumers to “never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or any other self-identifying response to an unexpected call.”
Risks of Providing Medicare Number to Callers
There are several risks to providing your Medicare Number over the phone:
Identity Theft – Scammers can use your number to fraudulently bill services, get medical treatment, or steal your identity.
Fraudulent Billing – Dishonest providers will use your number to bill services they never performed and pocket the payments.
Elite Benefits Scams – Scammers will claim you qualify for elite benefits or offers, but first need your Medicare Number to verify eligibility.
Unsolicited Marketing Calls – Providing the number allows shady agents to contact you repeatedly with undesired Medicare sales calls.
Bogus Supplemental Plans – Scammers can use your number to enroll you in sham supplemental plans without permission.
Medicare Eligibility Scams – Some callers pretend to need your number to confirm your Medicare eligibility status but will use it maliciously.
Free Medical Equipment Scams – Fraudsters promise free braces, scooters, etc in exchange for your Medicare Number but never deliver.
Prescription Fraud – Dishonest pharmacies can use your number to bill drugs you never obtained.
What to Do if You Share Your Medicare Number
If you realize you’ve shared your Medicare Number with an untrustworthy party:
Contact 1-800-MEDICARE immediately to report it and get a new Medicare Number issued.
Closely monitor your Medicare claims for any suspicious or erroneous charges.
Check your credit report regularly for signs of identity theft.
Update your Medicare account password and security questions.
Contact your healthcare providers to put a fraud alert on your medical records.
Do not answer calls from unknown numbers demanding sensitive information.
While mistakes happen, it’s crucial to act quickly if your Medicare Number is compromised. Ongoing vigilance and caution when sharing the number are vital.
Protecting Your Medicare Number
To help safeguard your Medicare Number:
Treat it like a credit card number or bank account number. Never share it during unsolicited calls.
Only provide it to your known healthcare providers or insurers acting on your behalf.
Shred any documents containing your Medicare Number before disposing of them.
Ignore calls/emails from unknown parties requesting your number.
If in doubt, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE to verify legitimacy.
Review Medicare statements closely for any suspicious claims.
Set up online Medicare account access to monitor for fraud.
Your Medicare Number provides access to medical coverage, prescriptions, and healthcare data. Protecting it should be a top priority for every Medicare beneficiary. Following official guidance will help reduce your risk of fraud.
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