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Medicare Scams Rise With Open Enrollment

Common ways imposters try to steal your money, ID

  • Supplemental insurance. An unscrupulous salesman may use this open enrollment period to try to sell you products that will supposedly save you thousands of dollars in insurance costs.

    Despite claims of representing Medicare or companies endorsed by it, the motivation is often to sell unrelated, high-commission life insurance or annuities using aggressive sales tactics.

    The truth: Federal law prohibits unsolicited sales pitches for Medicare supplemental policies, whether by phone, home visit or "free lunch" seminar.

    Don't be fooled by sales material that looks like it's from the government. Private companies — not the government — sell Medicare Advantage and medigap plans.

    For information on how to choose a legitimate supplemental policy, contact your state AARP office or visit this Medicare website (PDF).
  • "Free" medical supplies. With new enrollment returns an old scam — that Medicare or a private company has deemed you eligible for free supplies for diabetes or some other medical condition.

    Typically initiated with a phone call, this con is just another attempt to collect your personal information, including a credit card number to cover "shipping" charges.

    But what can make this ruse appear especially convincing is that the caller may know the name and address of your doctor. That information could come from stolen medical records or hackers getting their hands on data about patient conditions kept by pharmaceutical companies or medical equipment suppliers.

    Whatever the come-on, provide no information about yourself.

    For bona fide help with free or low-cost supplies, you should place the call yourself — to your doctor or to a group such as the American Diabetes Association or American Heart Association.

    Programs run by these organizations in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies, equipment manufacturers and discount retailers may be restricted by income.

    For more information on choosing a plan that's best for you, visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Also of interest: Criminals bilk Medicare of billions each year. >>

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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