How to avoid getting duped by Medicare scams during open enrollment

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You probably know that Medicare enrollment is open.

So are scammers.

The Federal Trade Commission warns that scammers can use this time of year to pose as Medicare agents. The program’s open enrollment, which began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, is when Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their coverage, and criminals often try to take advantage of it through spam calls.

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“If someone asks for your Medicare identification number, the sirens should go off,” said Ari Parker, senior adviser at Medicare consulting firm Chapter. “Same with your social security number and checking account information.”

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Generally speaking, no one is allowed to contact you — unsolicited — about your insurance by phone or email. Of course, this doesn’t include agents you already work with or who signed you up for your current plan.

During open enrollment, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services encourages beneficiaries to review their current coverage and make sure it’s still the best fit for them next year. In general, this time period is for changes to Part D (prescription drug coverage) and benefit plans that provide Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (outpatient care) and usually include Part D.

Last year, scams cost older adults $121 million

How phone scammers swindle Americans out of tens of billions of dollars each year

Elder fraud continues to be a problem, with a recent FTC report showing that in 2021, older adults lost $121 million to scammers impersonating government officials and another $151 million to scams involving scammers impersonating private businesses employees. Of the approximately 64.5 million Medicare beneficiaries, 56.6 million are age 65 or older.

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Criminals can cast a wide net in their efforts to rescue victims. Sometimes emails or calls can even appear to come from a legitimate source.

Misleading websites can trick you

For example, you may receive an email inviting you to click on a link that appears to be related to your Medicare plan.

“Some scammers create fake websites,” Parker said. “You give your information and it goes to a fraudster who could be anywhere in the world.”

According to the FTC, scammers aim to obtain enough identifying information — they may already have parts of it — to commit Medicare ID fraud, steal your money, or even steal your identity.

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Here are some tips from the FTC to avoid scams.

  • Be aware that scammers can spoof caller ID.
  • Hang up if someone calls and asks for your Medicare, Social Security, or bank or credit card information. Legitimate Medicare workers have your Medicare number.
  • Do not rush to make a decision. You must enroll by December 7, and Medicare does not offer additional benefits for enrolling early.
  • Ignore threats to take away your benefits. If you are eligible, your benefits cannot be lost for not enrolling in the plan.
  • Don’t talk to anyone who suggests Medicare prefers their plan. The program does not support a specific plan.

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