Open Enrollment for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage is right around the corner, and scammers are already on the prowl. From October 15 through December 7, many Medicare recipients will be enrolling in and making decisions on whether to make changes in their Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans. As much personal information will be disclosed during this type of change, BBB reminds consumers to be watchful for individuals impersonating official enrollment personnel attempting to collect personally identifiable information (PIN).
BBB ScamTracker often receives reports about scammers claiming to be government representatives or “health care benefits advocates” who can help you navigate your Medicare options. Scammers claim to be a “health care benefits advocate” or a similar title. These scammers allege they can enroll you in a better program than what you currently have. This new plan is cheaper, and you can keep all the same services. To get started, all you need to do is provide some personal information, such as your Medicare ID number. Of course, the call is a scam, and sharing personal information will open you up to identity theft.
In another common scam, callers try to frighten – rather than assist – victims with their health care plans. In this case, scammers claim that your Medicare will be discontinued if you didn’t re-enroll. Fortunately, this “Medicare advisor” can fix the situation – if you share personal information with them.
“Selecting a health insurance plan can be challenging and complex, “Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB in Central East Texas said. “Scammers often see open enrollments as a chance to trick individuals out of money and personal information.”
BBB offers the following ways to avoid Medicare fraud:
Shop around. Ensure you are getting the plan which best meets your needs for the best price. Shop and compare plans at www.medicare.gov. You can also contact the State Health Insurance Program at (900) 252-9240.
Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Keep a healthy level of skepticism any time a broker offers you free gifts, health screenings, or other special deals. Never sign up with a broker who offers you an expensive “sign-up gift” in exchange for providing your Medicare ID number or other personally identifiable information.
Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan info, or banking information to anyone you don’t know.
Verify licensing. The Medicare-eligible population grows every year, making sales of Medicare plans big business. Independent agents and brokers selling plans must be licensed, and the plan must tell the state which agents are selling plans on the company’s behalf. Before any decisions are made, verify the agent has proper credentials with a known company. Start with trust at bbb.org for information about a business, or contact the Texas Department of Insurance at tdi.texas.gov.
Dodge phony pitches. Phone calls, door-to-door, phishing emails, mail offers, health fairs, dinners, contests or prizes have all been used to lure people who may be pressed for time or confused by their Medicare options.
Hang up if:
- You receive a cold call. Individuals representing Medicare plans aren’t allowed to contact you by phone, email, or in person unless you specifically request to be contacted.
- The caller uses high-pressure sales or offers for “early bird discounts” during open enrollment for lower monthly premiums. Remember, you have until December 7 to make your decision.
- The caller offers a “special plan made just for you”.
- The caller asks for payment or personal information upfront.
- Claims there is a problem with your plan or there is a new card for your plan and asks you for updated.
Medicare is a federal government program managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which means there are strict rules on forbidden sales practices. Medicare is not part of healthcare.gov.
For additional resources contact the Texas Health and Human Services at (855) 937-2372 and Texas Senior Medicare Patrol at (888) 341-6187. Please report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices to BBB Scam Tracker. . Remember, great businesses are out there. Always look for the BBB seal; it’s the Sign of a Better BusinessSM . Start with companies you can trust by going to bbb.org.
About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. BBB Serving Central East Texas was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.