The open enrollment period for Medicare began on October 15th and continues until December 7th.  This is the only time during the year that people enrolled in Medicare can change their Medicare health plans, Medigap plans and their prescription drug plans.  By now, people already enrolled in Medicare should have received an Annual Notice of Change from their health insurance providers describing any changes to their plans such as the dropping of particular drugs from their prescription drug plan.  If you are satisfied with your plans, you do not need to do anything.
We are only four days into the Medicare open enrollment period and already scammers are hard at work on a number of different scams. Many of these scams relate to those people who still have not received their new Medicare card and are still using their old card that uses their Social Security number as their Medicare number. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services while many people have received their new cards, the process of replacing the old cards with new Medicare cards with random numbers will not be completed until April of 2019.
Scammers and identity thieves view the open enrollment period as senior citizen hunting season as myriads of Medicare scams are common during this time. Among the scams are phone calls or emails purporting to be from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) informing you that Medicare is issuing new Medicare cards and that in order to continue to receive benefits, you need to obtain a new card which can be done by providing the person contacting you with your Medicare number which is your Social Security number. Between April 2018 and December 31, 2019 a Medicare recipient who has a new card has the option to use either his or her old number or the new, more secure Medicare number. Starting in 2020 only the new numbers will be used.
Scammers are already taking confusion about this transition to the new Medicare numbers by pretending to be Medicare employees, calling Medicare recipients and telling them that they need to register on the phone to get their new card or they will lose benefits. They then ask for their intended victim’s Medicare number which is the same as their Social Security number and use that information to make them a victim of identity theft. In another variation of the scam, targeted victims are told they need to pay for the new card through a credit card or by giving the caller their bank account number. The truth is that there is no charge for the new card, but anyone providing this information to a scammer will quickly become a victim of identity theft.
Seniors also may be contacted by someone purporting to be from their insurance company asking them to verify information. Again, this is a common tactic of identity thieves trying to trick their victims into providing information. They also may be contacted by people claiming to have supplemental insurance programs that will save them thousands of dollars. Here too, you cannot be sure that they are legitimate when they contact you by phone, text message, email or even regular mail.
TIPS
Never give personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone because you can never be sure who is actually on the other end of the line.  Through a technique called “spoofing,” a scammer can manipulate your Caller ID and make it appear that the call is from the government or some legitimate company when in fact, it is from an identity thief who is eager to steal your money.  If you want to get information you can trust about what insurance plans are available to you and at what cost, merely go to the “Plan Finder” section of Medicare’s website www.medicare.gov.  If you want to speak with someone on the phone, call Medicare at its 24 hour hotline 1-800-MEDICARE.
If you have already received your new Medicare card, you should start using it instead of your old, less secure Medicare card. There is no charge for obtaining the new Medicare card and you do not have to register or provide any personal information to anyone to receive the new card.
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