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Medicare scams could surge during open enrollment

Seniors should watch for the warning signs of scams trying to steal their identities during Medicare's open-enrollment period, the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud urges.

Open enrollment runs Oct. 15-Dec. 7. New York's 3.2 million residents age 65 or older can evaluate their health coverage, make changes if needed, or buy new policies.

Scam artists also step up their game during open enrollment. Swindlers call seniors with sham Medicare deals and even threats of lost coverage. Deceptive phone spoofing can make calls appear to come from an official or approved Medicare source, the New York Alliance says.

Medicare schemes can steal a senior's medical or financial identity, and drain their Medicare benefits with false claims. Stay safe and know the warning signs of a scam, the New York Alliance urges.

The scams

• Account "updates." A Medicare "advisor" requests your Medicare number, credit card and other personal information to "update" your account or "enroll" you in Medicare. Some callers falsely warn you must respond in order to keep your Medicare coverage.

• Pressure tactics. The caller uses high-pressure sales or offers for "early bird" premium discounts" during open enrollment. Remember, you have until Dec. 7 to decide.

• Fake Plan D signup. You're required to sign up for a Part D prescription drug plan. In fact, Part D is voluntary.

• Bogus endorsements. Deceptive callers claim Medicare "sponsors" or "endorses" them as Medicare plan providers or agents. Ads also can tout false endorsements.

Protect your wallet

• Just hang up. Medicare won't call you for your Medicare number or other personal information unless you give permission in advance. Nor will Medicare call to sell you plans, or visit your home.

• Avoid pressure sales tactics, gifts or threats. These are scams that try to trick you into revealing your Medicare number and other personal information.

• Shop safely. You can shop for Medicare Advantage and drug plans (Part D) during open enrollment with the Medicare Plan Finder.

• Questions? Get help with Medicare. ... Find the right Medicare plan for you. ... And to report fraud, call 1-877-7SAFERX (1-877-772-3379).

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