Medicare open enrollment is underway, providing individuals with the opportunity to review and make changes to their healthcare coverage until December 7.

The Department of Justice recently revealed a staggering statistic taxpayers lose over $100 billion each year to Medicare fraud. Despite this alarming figure, there are proactive steps individuals can take to avoid falling victim to scams.

Brian Watson, a community outreach specialist with the non-profit organization ‘Resources/Outreach to Safeguard the Elderly’ (R.O.S.E.), emphasizes the common thread in scams: high-pressure tactics aimed at immediate responses.

“With all scams, the overarching theme is high pressure; they want you to react immediately,” Watson said.

During open enrollment, Watson said individuals often receive scam phone calls, text messages, or mail.

Watson advised, “They’re just trying to steal your information. You may get a phone call, and they’ll ask for your Medicare number or your Social Security number. Hang up on these people; they’re identity thieves.”

Highlighting real-life experiences, Rueben Robles and his wife recounted years of receiving Medicare scam calls and letters. They eventually learned to recognize the signs and protect themselves.

Robles stressed the importance of having a local broker accessible during the Medicare selection process, stating, “It’s difficult when you don’t have a broker that lives in the surrounding area… getting letters from people who are in Jersey or New York or places on the other side of Arizona.”

Rita Bancroft, a Business Development Executive at Connie Health, advises, “The best way to avoid Medicare scams is to find someone local that can give you objective, factual information about your options, what the plans can offer, and what the rules are.”

Watson reiterated the significance of verifying credentials, stating, “If someone’s going to sell a Medicare plan to you, they have to be licensed in the state. You want to make sure that the plan will work for you.”

Watson emphasized the importance of awareness during open enrollment: “You want to take your time, go seek advice. Time is your friend when it comes to preventing scams.”

As the enrollment period, which opened in mid-October, approaches its December 7 deadline, individuals are urged to stay informed and cautious.