Medicare scams are an autumn ritual you can avoid.

The Better Business Bureau is offering tips on how to keep from being scammed when you sign up for benefits. Open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15.

“Every year, scammers try to dupe unsuspecting consumers into sharing personal information,” according to information from the BBB. “This year is no exception.”

According to a new BBB scam tracker site, Americans are getting calls from scammers fishing for Medicare numbers and other information.

AARP also is working to protect Medicare recipients, State Director Lori Parham said Friday.

She said the retired people’s advocacy group supported the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.

“Before this change, it was very easy to get information from a beneficiary,” Parham said, “but we do know that the scammers are still out there.”

Indeed, elderly people are being victimized around the country, according to a Sept. 30 report on AARP’s website.

The latest scam: chip card offers.

“If you’re on Medicare, be aware: You will not be receiving a new chip card to replace your paper ID card,” according to the report. “If somebody tells you that, they’re lying.”

You also should never give out your card number to anyone who contacts you by telephone, claiming to be a benefits advocate.

“Just. Hang. Up,” AARP advises. Do not worry about being rude.

In another version of this scam reported to the Better Business Bureau, the caller tries to frighten Medicare recipients into giving out personal information.

“In this case, they claim that your Medicare will be discontinued if you don’t re-enroll,” according to a news release. “Fortunately, this ‘Medicare adviser’ can fix the situation” if you give them your card number or other information.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to avoid open enrollment scams:

• Be wary of anyone who contacts you unsolicited.

• Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information.

• Beware of dishonest brokers who offer free health screenings.

• Guard your government-issued numbers.

• Hang up and go to official websites.

Free health screenings can be offered at local health fairs, senior housing and community centers, according to the news release.

Most are legitimate, but the BBB has learned that insurance scammers sometimes use them to steal sensitive information.

Also, some insurance brokers offer free screenings to weed out people who are less healthy. This is against Medicare rules, according to the bureau.

As for free gifts, callers may tell you, for example, that you have qualified for a back brace you do not need. They might call repeatedly until you relent or send it to you anyway and bill Medicare for the equipment.

“Medicare fraud has cost the American public more than $60 billion,” according to the Better Business Bureau. Medical equipment fraud is a significant contributor to that total.

If you have been the victim of a scam, the BBB asks you report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

“By sharing your experience, you can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams,” according to the bureau.


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