North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is advising North Dakotans to hang up if they receive a call supposedly from Medicare. The calls are a scam, he says, the latest variation of a “government agency” phishing scam.
In this variation, the scam artists pretend to be calling from Medicare, claiming the agency is replacing the paper cards with plastic cards with a chip or magnetic strip. The scammers then say they will need the consumer to verify his or her Medicare number (the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier).
Once the scammer has the person’s name and Medicare number, they can use that information to file fraudulent claims, send unnecessary medical devices such as knee and back braces to consumers and then bill Medicare extremely high rates for the equipment, or even obtain prescription drugs in the victim’s name, which they then sell on the black market.
Scam artists deliberately pretend to be calling from federal agencies because they know people are more likely to give out information over the phone if they think they are about to lose a benefit or get into trouble with a government agency.
“Never believe it when someone calls and says they are with Medicare or the Social Security Administration and they need you to verify your information,” Stenehjem says. “Real government agencies don’t call out of the blue and ask for information they would already have on file. If you get one of these calls, just hang up.”
North Dakota’s Consumer Protection Division has received numerous calls recently from people who responded to the scam call and realized their information had been compromised. In some instances, consumers reported the scam artist already had some personal information about them, which made them further believe the caller.