Medicare open enrollment comparisons and precautions

Medicare open enrollment gives beneficiaries the chance to review their health and prescription drug coverage for the coming year. Changes can be made between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. To stay with the same coverage, nothing needs to be done.

Although Medicare scams occur year-round, they dramatically spike in the weeks leading up to and through the annual window for participants to make changes to their health and prescription coverage. The easiest step to avoid a Medicare scam is to never reveal the Medicare card number (the same as a Social Security number), or other personal health and financial information to anyone who's not a bona fide member of a health care team.

There are several open enrollment scams.

•    New card cons. In phone calls and occasionally emails or front-door visits, you're told that Medicare is issuing new cards, and to get yours, you need to provide identifying information such as your Medicare number, birth date or even financial account numbers. Identity theft is the real goal.

What to know: Medicare isn't issuing new cards and its employees don't contact participants through unsolicited calls, emails or visits. They won't ask for personal identifiers unless you contact the agency yourself.

•    Refund rip-offs. Scammers claim you're entitled to money back because of "changes" or "enhancements" by Medicare or private insurers, or because of purported lawsuits or actions by government agencies. In these schemes, the goal is to get not only your Medicare number, but your bank account information for a supposed direct deposit.

What to know: If you're really entitled to a refund, a check will be sent directly to you. You won't have to "prove" or provide anything. If you get Social Security, Uncle Sam already has your direct-deposit account on file, so Medicare wouldn't ask for it.

•    Posers galore. In seeking your personal information, crooks may also claim to be from state or local health agencies, doctor's offices or hospitals, or an official-sounding but phony organization such as the National Medical Office. And they may try to trick you by manipulating your caller ID screen.

What to know: Never trust caller ID. Scammers can easily make it display whatever identity and phone number they choose, thanks to "spoofing" products for sale on the Internet. Also, don't be taken in if callers have personal info about you: Fraudsters have been known to contact Medicare patients and accurately give the names and addresses of their doctors. It's unclear how they got the information.

If you think a call may be genuine, hang up, look up the agency's number yourself and call it back. For Medicare, it's 800-633-4227. Senior Resources will not call you to make an appointment to review your Part D comparison. They take appointments by telephone from the clients. If you receive a call from anyone saying they are from a County Agency and want to make an appointment with you, gather as much information as possible from the caller. Do not give any personal information including your address. Call Senior Resources so we they can look into the company to make sure they are legit.

For more information, or to set up an appointment for a Part D comparison with Senior Resources, contact Dianne at 877-898-6459 or 419-898-6459.

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