Open enrollment for Medicare opens the door for scams

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare started this month and runs through Dec. 7. This is when recipients can change their health and drug plans. It’s also when some seniors get scammed.

Con artists are well aware of the enrollment period, and they roll out gimmicks to try to steal your identity or your money.

Common frauds include phone calls from people claiming to be Medicare employees who say you must change your coverage, that you must sign up for a new Medicare card or that you must re-enroll and verify your information.

Those ploys try to trick you into divulging your Medicare number, which in most cases is your Social Security number.

Medicare does not call recipients and ask for that type of information, so if you get a call, hang up.

Also beware of impersonators who say they’re calling on behalf of a physician or health insurer. They don’t call unsolicited and ask you to verify your information, either.

Medicare plan representatives are not allowed to ask for payment over the phone or online, according to a recent warning from the California attorney general’s office.

And remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Federal law does not permit a free meal to be offered during the marketing of Medicare health or drug plans, the California attorney general’s office said, adding that “anyone offering this arrangement should not be trusted.”

It’s wise to shop around during the open enrollment period to look for better coverage, but know that you don’t have to do anything if you’re satisfied with what you have now.

If you want to switch, you should be the one initiating contact with the plans. Don’t respond to callers and make sure to check out any information you get by mail, too, before sending them your personal info.

And remember that changes made during the enrollment period don’t take effect until Jan. 1.