October brings out trick-or-treaters for Halloween, but also for Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. While finding the right healthcare plan can be a bit of a treat, you need to be on the lookout during this season for those hoping to trick you.
Every year scammers utilize the annual enrollment season to take advantage of senior citizens that are shopping for healthcare coverage. Seniors are considered a vulnerable population as they are among one of the most reportedly scammed groups of people in the U.S. While there are various scams that target the elderly – investment, timeshare, and reverse mortgage scams – Medicare scams are at the top of the list. A recent study found that a total of $60 billion was scammed from Medicare last year alone!
Enrollment, especially for first time recipients, can be confusing. So be sure to do your research and act cautiously to avoid being swindled out of your money or even have your identity stolen. Let’s get into a few examples of the scams we’re talking about.
Unsolicited Phone Calls, Emails, and Visits from Medicare Representatives
Federal law states that Medicare representatives cannot send unsolicited emails, phone calls, or show up on the door step of a Medicare recipient and ask for private information. Anyone trying to contact you claiming that they are a Medicare Representative from a Medicare Service Center is a red flag and your best bet is to hang up. If Medicare needs to get in touch with you, they will typically send an official letter from the government requesting that you contact them.
1. New Cards for Benefits
Fraudsters may call claiming that you need a new card for the following year in order for you to continue receiving benefits. This lie is just a way for them to ask for your Medicare Identification Number. Many who have not kept up-to-date on the annual changes in Medicare, may find themselves a victim to this trap. In previous years, one’s social security number was used as their Medicare Identification number. Only in 2015, did Medicare decide to issue Medicare ID numbers that are different from one’s SSN; however, this will take at least 5 years to complete the transition for all current and new Medicare recipients.
2. Mandatory Prescription Plan
A Medicare representative imposter may tell you that you must purchase a separate coverage plan for prescription drugs during the enrollment period in order to receive benefits. They may try pressuring you into purchasing a plan over the phone, asking for your credit card information and Medicare Number. However, while Medicare does provide Prescription Drugs plans (https://www.medicare.gov/part-d/), they are not mandatory to purchase.
This one can be an easy trap, especially if someone knows that they are deserving of a refund. A scammer will get you excited about how much of a refund you can get back through a direct deposit. However, even if you are expecting a refund, you would be directly issued a check through the mail, as opposed to a “Medicare Representative” requesting for your bank information via phone call.
4. Free Stuff
Perhaps you were invited to a free lunch seminar or free medical check-up at a clinic. The scammers’ goals are typically 1) to get you to come in person so they can sell you on medical supplies and request for your credit card information and/or 2) to obtain all your medical information in exchange for a free check-up. While there are moving clinics that may offer a free check-up, it is crucial that you investigate what organization is hosting the check-ups. Our Medicare system is complex and – considering changes and adjustments that occur every year – it’s no wonder that fraudsters see this as an opportunity to trick people out of their money. So, as you make your way through Medicare enrollment, be cautious of who you give your information to and always look into anything that sounds suspicious. If you have any questions or concerns regarding enrollment scams or fraudulent activities, please feel free to reach out to one of our agents by contacting us below.