COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A warning for more than half a million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services alerted 612,000 customers of a data breach of a government contractor, Maximus Federal Services, earlier this year, putting the Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other personal information of customers at risk.

CMS and Maximus sent letters to people who are “potentially affected,” apologizing for the breach, and letting them know what options are available to them, including a new Medicare ID number and two years of free identity and credit monitoring services.

If you got one of these letters, carefully review the details to make sure it’s the real deal. According to the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio, scammers follow the headlines, and Medicare and Medicaid recipients are already prime targets.

“Scams target everyone,” BBB of Central Ohio President Judy Dollison said. “No one’s immune to a scam. But we also know that those older adults lose billions of dollars every year to scams.”

Dollison said fraud and abuse cost Medicare an estimated $60 billion dollars each year — the result of scammers preying on a vulnerable population, using deception to steal their time, energy and personal information.

“They really prey on that trust that an older consumer may have,” Dollison said. “Seniors receive multiple calls from someone trying to sell them durable medical equipment or equipment that you use like a wheelchair or a walker that you would keep in your home. They say that it’s free medical equipment, or maybe even that your doctor has requested that you get it. But this is an unsolicited call, it is not real. That’s against the law. You should just hang up the phone.”

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Your state Medicaid agency may call, text, or send an email with information, but the real Medicaid program will not ask you for money or personal information. 
  • Do not trust caller ID. These calls can be spoofed so they look like they’re coming from Medicare, even when they’re not. It’s safer to initiate your own call to Medicare. 
  • If you get a call, report it to agencies like the BBB and the Federal Trade Commision. The more they hear from you, the more they can help to fight scams.