Watch Out for COVID-19 Vaccine & Medicare Card Scams
by Kristin Griffith, Director, SHIIP/SMP
We applaud older Iowans for being diligent in your efforts to protect your health during these isolating times of a pandemic. It’s been a long year, and we are so happy you now have the option of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
This month, the state of Iowa has opened Phase 1B of its vaccination plan making Iowa residents 65 or older eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s important to remember that vaccine supply is limited, so it will take several weeks to get everyone in this age group vaccinated.
Medicare Part B covers FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to Medicare recipients. Be sure to bring your Medicare card to your vaccination appointment so your healthcare provider or pharmacy can bill Medicare.
Unfortunately, scammers use public health emergencies as opportunities for new fraud schemes. Because older adults are at greater risk for serious illness and are more eager to get the limited-supply vaccine, these con artists are preying on older Iowans.
According to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, an Iowa agency on aging reported that scammers were contacting Iowans offering “to sell a ticket of some kind to you or an older adult guaranteeing a place on the waiting list for the COVID-19 vaccine.” In Florida, scammers have put up fake Eventbrite pages, posing as health departments to take fees to sign up people for appointments.
Remember — registering for your vaccine and receiving your vaccine is free.
Make sure you receive vaccine information from a reputable government website or your healthcare provider. Be cautious of social media or online advertisements offering to sign you up for a vaccine.
It’s a red flag if additional medical testing is recommended for you to receive your vaccine. Also, government officials will never call or email you and say they REQUIRE you to receive the vaccine. Be especially cautious if you receive an unsolicited call from someone trying to sign you up for a vaccine. If you don’t know the number, don’t answer your phone – let it go to voicemail.
Be alert to scammers trying to steal your Medicare number. Don’t share your personal, financial or health information, including your Medicare, Social Security and credit card numbers, with anyone other than known, trusted medical professionals.
The Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) was made aware of a new Medicare card scam where a caller inquires if you have received your “new black and white COVID-19 Medicare card?” The caller uses technology to make the incoming phone number look like a local number on caller I.D., often knows the victims name and birthdate and asks for the Medicare number. If you don’t provide the Medicare number, the caller threatens to “deactivate your red, white and blue Medicare number in three days.”
Medicare is not issuing any new cards. Medicare employees don’t contact participants through unsolicited calls, emails or visits to your home. If you are contacted by a scammer, hang up the phone and call Iowa SMP. When there is known fraud occurring in our state, it’s even more important to check your Medicare explanation of benefits summary notices for suspicious claims.
If you or a loved one are approached by a scammer, please report it to the Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-800-351-4664. We’re here to help you prevent, detect and report Medicare fraud, errors and abuse.