Aside from the fact that many people consider the new Medicare prescription drug plan a scam in and of itself, there are plenty of non-government scam artists out there ready to take advantage of the confusion surrounding the new policies. The fact marketing is involved, and the fact that so much information is needed, makes the new Medicare program ideal for scammers looking to bilk people out of their cash – or even just to steal their identities.
Watch out for door-to-door “salespeople” trying to sell plans. These kind folks will sit down with a prospective customer and explain a variety of options. Many of them come with brochures, taken from pharmacies and legitimate insurers that offer them for free, to lend an aura of credibility. An “initial payment” is made on a phony plan, and the salesperson walks away, promising that the rest of the paperwork and the insurance card will arrive in the mail shortly.
Keep in mind that legitimate Medicare plans are not sold door-to-door. You may be able to ask someone to come to your house, but these plans do not appear unsolicited on your doorstep. Contact your current insurer for Medicare information, or visit http://www.medicare.gov or http://www.cms.hhs.gov/PrescriptionDrugCovGenIn.
Another tack is for scammers to pose as insurers offering “plans” in order to get your personal information and steal your identity. They market to you and ask for a Social Security Number, date of birth, bank account numbers and credit card numbers. While you may not pay up front, these scammers can raid your bank account, or purchase items in your name.
Remember that insurers are not allowed to take personal information while marketing. Until you actually contact them to enroll, you should not give out your personal info, including Social Security Number and birth date. And you will not ever have to give out your bank account number or credit card information unless you are signing up for automatic withdrawals to pay premiums. If you intend to be billed and pay by check, there is no need to give your financial account numbers to any insurer.
Do not give personal information to someone who just asks for it. Instead, only give it out if you have to in a call or transaction that you have initiated. And it does not hurt to ask the person you are speaking with whether or not you really need to give out the information and why he or she needs it.