Beware of crooks during Medicare open enrollment

Better Call Behnken

Open enrollment period runs through Dec. 7

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Medicare’s open enrollment period kicks off today, and crooks hope to use the confusing time to take advantage of you. Circumstances surrounding the pandemic, senior advocates say, make the environment for fraud even more ripe.

Typically, many conversations and decisions surrounding Medicare coverage are made face-to-face, but because of the pandemic, more of these conversations will be made on the phone or online.

Amy Hagel, of Senior Connections, Shine program, warms that crooks are after your Medicare identification number, and once they get it, you could be targeted for an array of scams.

“That’s just the beginning of all their scams,” Hagel said. Once they have that Medicare number, they can use that number for any other type of scams, and that’s how they start.”

Here are some things to watch out for: crooks will call you, or even knock on your door, pretending to represent Medicare, or try to sell you something.

They may offer fake rebates, threaten a loss of coverage and provide bogus sales materials.

One big one to look out for this year is genetic testing scams or Covid-19 testing. Hagel says walk way from both. They just want your Medicare number to bill Medicare thousands of dollars for results you either won’t get, or can’t trust, she said. If you want a genetic test, consult your own doctor.

Beware of giveaways, too. Crooks are offering things like masks and hand sanitizer, but they want your Medicare number in return.

“If you hear something that’s for free, that should be a big red flag right there,” Hagel said. “People should not be asking for our Medicare number just to give you hand sanitizer.”

Florida’s SHINE program is under the state Department of Elder Affairs and the local Area Agency on Aging. Volunteers who are experts in Medicare can help find the plan that is best for you, and can help you figure out the difference between legitimate information and scams.

A Shine representative can be reached at 1-800-963-5337 or visit floridashine.org.

You can also call Medicare by at 1-800-633-4227.

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Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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