October 15, 2016 is the beginning of Medicare open enrollment which is a time period when Medicare beneficiaries can join plans or switch plans. This means upwards of 55 million older adults and younger disabled individuals who are Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to choose new or different medical coverage. This also means that open enrollment is a prime time for Medicare scams. These scams use a trusted and valued program – Medicare – to gain unauthorized access to beneficiary information which can result in identity theft or financial exploitation.
What do these scams look like?
* A beneficiary gets a phone call from someone claiming to work for Medicare who states that new Medicare cards are being issued or that the beneficiary’s file must be updated. The caller asks for the Medicare card number which is usually a person’s Social Security number and/or financial information. Disclosure of such information can lead to identity theft or unauthorized withdrawals from a person’s bank account.
* A phone call from someone who states that it is open enrollment time and tells the beneficiary that they MUST switch plans or risk losing their current coverage. Beneficiaries who fall for this scam are often enrolled in a plan that doesn’t suit their needs or allow them to see their doctor or get their medications covered.
* Phone calls from people saying they’re from your doctor’s office, other health care providers, or suppliers who ask for your Medicare number in exchange for free equipment or services.
* A person comes to your door claiming to be from Medicare and tries to sell supplies by asking for a Medicare card and/or credit card. Medicare does not send representatives to people’s homes to sell products or services.
It is important to know that Medicare will never call or show up at someone’s door or ask for personal/financial information via email.
Perhaps the most important information that beneficiaries need to safeguard is their Medicare number. All Medicare beneficiaries receive a Medicare number and card automatically upon enrollment – these cards do not expire and Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer a new card or request information in order to issue a new card.