Your phone rings, but you don't recognize the number. When you pick up, the professional-sounding voice on the other end tells you that there's a problem with your Social Security or Medicare benefits, and that you need to confirm your personal information or pay a fee to fix it. You're naturally concerned about an interruption of your benefits, so you provide the information or the money the seemingly helpful rep asks for.
There's only one problem: You're not on the phone with a real government representative. Medicare and Social Security scam calls can lead to identity theft and financial loss, so it's important to recognize their telltale signs.
Here's what you need to know about these fraudulent phone calls so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
Common Scam Call Warning Signs
It can be tough to determine which calls are legitimate calls from government agencies and which are fraudulent, especially when the scammer calls from what looks like a legitimate phone number. However, there are important red flags to watch out for; if you recognize them, you can avoid falling for Social Security or Medicare scam calls.
For starters, Medicare or Social Security representatives rarely call people about services or benefits. A Medicare representative will only call you in one of two circumstances: if you're a member of a specific health or drug plan, or if you've called the 1-800-MEDICARE phone number and requested a callback or been told you'll receive one. A Social Security representative will only call you for rare circumstances (say, if you're working on an issue or a claim), and they usually call you after you've called them.
Other potential red flags for Social Security or Medicare scam calls include the person on the other line:
- Telling you that there is a problem with your Social Security or Medicare number or account.
- Threatening to suspend your Social Security or Medicare benefits.
- Demanding that you provide your Social Security or Medicare number.
- Demanding immediate payment.
- Requesting payment in the form of cash, a gift card, a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer.
Even if a call seems legitimate, if you notice one of these warning signs, double-check who's on the other line or ask to call back after confirming the alleged issue.
How to Handle Suspected Medicare or Social Security Scam Calls
If you suspect that a call is illegitimate, there are several things you can do in the moment to protect yourself. First: Hang up. Then call Social Security (800-772-1213) or Medicare (800-633-4227) and speak to a representative to determine whether there's a problem. And if it's confirmed that the call is fraudulent, report it to the proper authorities.
Never provide personal information over the phone to someone claiming to be a Social Security or Medicare representative. Neither organization will ask you for that information over the phone.
What to Do If You've Fallen Victim to a Scam
It can be embarrassing to admit that you fell for a scam. But working to expose the scam can help you regain some control, and it can help others avoid the same trap. So report the fraud to Social Security or Medicare. Victims of Social Security scam calls can also take additional measures to protect themselves. Start by creating a my Social Security account, which lets you keep track of your records and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. You can also add to your account an eServices block, which prevents anyone (including you) from seeing or changing your personal information online. You can also add a direct deposit fraud prevention block, which prevents anyone (including you) from changing your direct deposit or address information online.
You can protect yourself from Social Security and Medicare scam calls. Knowing the red flags of a fraudulent call and the options available to you if you've received such a call will help keep you safe long into your retirement.