Guest Column | Stay away from scams this Medicare Open Enrollment Period

If you or one of your loved ones are on Medicare, you’re probably aware that open enrollment ends Dec. 7. And you’re probably reviewing and comparing different options to select a plan that’s right for you. But as you shop around, know that scammers might take advantage of this period to impersonate Medicare agents.

Scammers may sound professional, say they’re from Medicare, and have your personal details. But in reality, they’re trying to steal your money, Medicare information, or your identity. Here’s how to spot potential scams and what to do:

Don’t trust the name displayed on your phone. Scammers can fake a caller ID.

Hang up if anyone calls and asks for your Medicare, Social Security, or bank or credit card information. Legitimate Medicare employees have your Medicare number on file.

Don’t be rushed into making a decision. You have until Dec. 7 to enroll, and Medicare doesn’t offer extra benefits for signing up early.

Ignore threats to take away your benefits. If you qualify, your benefits can’t be taken away for not signing up for a plan.

Don’t talk to anyone that suggests their plan is preferred by Medicare. The truth is that Medicare doesn’t endorse a specific plan.

Get help to deal with Medicare fraud and abuse at smpresource.org.

Visit the Eldercare Locator or call toll-free 1-800-677-1116 to find local resources that can give you more information about the different Medicare plans available.

To report someone pretending to be affiliated with Medicare and other Medicare scams, call 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) and tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

(Gema de las Heras is a consumber education specialist with the Federal Trade Commision.)

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