Beware of Scams During Medicare Open Enrollment
Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and younger people with disabilities. Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15, 2014 to December 7, 2014. During the annual open enrollment period, people can enroll, disenroll, or change their Medicare coverage for 2015. As open enrollment is now in full swing, older consumers should be aware of scam artists claiming to employment or affiliation with Medicare.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission, a federal agency with both consumer protection and competition jurisdiction, released a warning against a telemarketing scheme directed at senior citizens. The defendants contacted elderly consumers and pretended to be affiliated with Medicare. They offered to provide new Medicare cards or information concerning Medicare. The defendants claimed that they needed to verify the victims’ identities with personal information, including bank account numbers. The victims provided their personal information over the telephone and/or verified their personal information.
Several weeks after the telephone conversations, the victims’ bank accounts were debited without their permission. The notations indicated that payment was for “Medicare Benefit Plan” and/or “Identity Theft Protection.” However, the victims never received any products or services.
Some consumers receive calls from scam artists claiming that the Medicare recipient is owed a refund because of a prescription drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole.” The scam artists claim that the refund will be automatically deposited into the Medicare recipient’s bank account. The scam artist asks the victim for his or her personal information, including Social Security number and bank account numbers. Please be advised that Medicare recipients who qualified for this rebate received checks automatically in the mail. Medicare recipients were not required to fill out any forms or share personal information in order to receive this rebate.
Yet other consumers receive calls from scam artists claiming that the Medicare recipient must join a particular plan or risk losing Medicare benefits. These scam artists request payment immediately and also request the consumer’s personal information.
Please be advised that Medicare representatives cannot call consumers, unless the consumer is already a member of the plan or gave a plan permission to call. In addition, Medicare representatives cannot ask for payment over the phone or Internet. Medicare plans and people who represent them cannot ask for personal information, such as Social Security Numbers, bank account number, or credit card information.
A person claiming to work for Medicare comes to the senior’s home. The scam artist claims to be selling Medicare insurance that can save money. The scam artist puts pressure on the senior by stating that the offer is only valid during Open Enrollment Period. The scam artist may provide convincing, official-looking brochures.
Please be advised that Medicare representatives cannot come to a recipient’s home uninvited to pressure consumers to join a Medicare plan.
Verify and/or report to the following entities:
- Elder Law & Advocacy’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) provides personalized counseling, community education and outreach events for Medicare beneficiaries in San Diego and Imperial Countries. HICAP is the primary local source for accurate and objective information and assistance with Medicare benefits, prescription drug plans and health plans. HICAP is available in each county in California to assist consumers. HICAP does not sell, endorse, promote, or recommend commercial products or services. To make an appointment with a HICAP counselor, call (858) 565-1392 (San Diego County) or (760) 353-0223 (Imperial County)
- To report any issues to Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
- To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
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