4. False freebies. You get a call offering you free medical supplies or a health checkup. The caller may even know something about your medical condition. Or you're invited to go somewhere for a complimentary checkup.
What to know: Assume that an unsolicited call promising supplies for diabetes or other medical conditions is another attempt to collect your Medicare/Social Security number. Or to soften you up for pitches for overpriced goods later. Plus, you may be told your credit card is needed for "shipping charges."
Complimentary checkups — offered by traveling clinics or temporary storefronts — can also be just an effort to get you to reveal personal identifiers. There are legitimate ones too, of course, so if you're thinking of going, first check out the organization that's offering it.
5. Supplemental swindles. Open enrollment is prime time for insurance salespeople to pitch supplemental policies that they promise will save you thousands in out-of-pocket costs. While there are many legitimate policies on the market, some bearing the AARP logo, not all make sense for everyone. And it's not unknown for salespeople to push this kind of insurance with scare tactics, free lunch seminars and false claims of being with a government agency.
What to know: Before signing anything, compare medigap policies at this Medicare website or call your local AARP chapter. As with investment scams, "free lunch seminar" is often a high-pressure pitch for insurance that may be wrong for you but right for the salesman. And know that private companies — not the government — sell Medicare Advantage and medigap plans.
6. Billing bilking. Told that something isn't "usually" covered by Medicare, but there's a way around the rule? Or that you can get a kickback for providing your Medicare number or undergoing unnecessary treatment? You may get this kind of offer if you go to a "free" medical checkup offered by a shady group.
What to know: No matter how it's said, it spells fraud — and possible criminal charges against both you and the other person. Medicare fraud is a huge problem, costing taxpayers about $60 billion a year. When in doubt, check with Medicare or your supplemental insurance provider. You should only sign a release form allowing others to make Medicare decisions on your behalf if the form's been carefully reviewed by you, a trusted family member or friend, or an attorney.
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.