Medicare is a frequent target for fraud, but fortunately there are things you can do to protect yourself

ACCORDING TO THE Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, scams against government and private health care insurers form the largest type of insurance fraud – by far. No one knows exactly how much money is lost through health care fraud, but it is likely in the tens of billions of dollars a year, the group claims. In addition, medical identity theft is now one of the top complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission, CNBC reports.

Government insurance, including Medicare, is a frequent target. Indeed, scammers are using this year's newly issued Medicare ID cards as a way to steal identities. The new cards replace Social Security numbers with randomly generated, 11-character numbers. Scammers posing as Medicare officials are asking people to pay for the new cards, which are in fact free. Or they are calling people to say they have a refund coming and need the ID number and a bank account number to deposit it. These, and many other Medicare scams, are used to steal money or the person's identity and use it for their own medical care or sell it on the black market.

Billing fraud is another huge problem, and it's not always easy to tell what is legitimate and what isn't. "There can be confusion about services that are being billed for, and it is hard to parse out if it's fraud or a billing error," says Fred Riccardi, vice president of client services at the Medicare Rights Center. Fortunately, there are many resources to help.

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