As unfathomable as it may be to most decent, law-abiding citizens, there are countless crooks out there just waiting to swindle Medicare out of billions of dollars a year. The victims are unsuspecting seniors, whose identities are used to conduct these fraudulent schemes, and the American taxpayers, who end up footing the bill. It’s time to fight back and be proactive – here are five ways to help protect yourself against Medicare fraud.

 1. Guard Your Card
Most importantly, protect your Medicare number. Think of your Medicare card as you would your Social Security number and credit cards. This information can be used to compromise your identity and allow swindlers to bill Medicare for fraudulent services under your name. Keep your card in a safe place and never give the number out to anyone except your doctor and other Medicare-approved entities. Do not give out your Medicare number over the phone, even if the person calling you claims to represent the government in any way. Never let family or friends use your card, either.

2. Flee Free Services
Have you ever been offered free medical equipment or services in exchange for your insurance information? If these services and supplies are truly legitimate and free of charge, there’s no need to give them any of your Medicare information. More than likely this is a scam perpetrated by heartless crooks, allowing them to gather Medicare numbers to be used for fraud. There have been cases where patients have received equipment they did not request and Medicare was billed illegally. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Scour Your Statements
Every time you receive your periodic Medicare statements, examine them closely for any anomalies. Some major red flags include doctor visits that didn’t happen, medical supplies you didn’t get, and health care providers you’ve never heard of. This could indicate that your information has been stolen. You can stay ahead of the game by signing up at MyMedicare.gov to check your statements online as soon as they are posted. If you discover something strange, report it to your doctor or medical provider first in order to determine if it was a clerical error. Contact Health Care Fraud Defense Lawyers if you suspect fraudulent activity.

4. Shut The Door On Door-to-Door
Medicare will never send a representative to your home. Neither will Medicaid or other insurance agents unless you have arranged a visit. So if a door-to-door salesperson arrives unsolicited and claims to represent one of these agencies, do not let them in your house and never accept any medical supplies or equipment from them. Above all else, absolutely do not give them any of your Medicare information.

5. Check Credit Report
There are documented cases in which a Medicare recipient’s information has been used to conduct fraudulent scams for years without the recipient even knowing. In one case, an elderly man’s daughter inquired about getting her father a wheelchair, only to be denied because Medicare’s records indicated he had already owned a wheelchair for the previous five years. By making a habit of checking your credit report every so often, you can be sure that there are no unpaid medical bills or other outstanding debts that could be a result of fraud.

Medicare fraud is big business, and it has long-lasting effects on the health care industry. Not only does fraud cause Medicare premiums to rise, it also forces Medicare to implement more stringent eligibility requirements, making the process even more difficult for people who legitimately need medical equipment and services. Don’t become a statistic – do what you can now to prevent Medicare fraud from happening to you.

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