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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Beware of Health Care Cons During Open Enrollment

Doctor shows Annual open enrollment stack of papers.
designer491/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The Doctor shows Annual open enrollment stack of papers.

If you are adding or changing your Medicare or Healthcare.gov coverage during open enrollment, watch out for unsolicited calls claiming to "help" you find the best deal. Unfortunately, scammers see this open enrollment period as a chance to trick people out of money and personal information.

Open enrollment has just begun, but BBB Scam Tracker has already gotten numerous reports of scam calls pretending to be from Medicare. In one report, the target received "an automated message from Medicare and how they could help them. When they followed the prompts, it led them to a nice-sounding male who claimed they were working for Medicare."

In another report, the person received calls claiming, "They requested information from them about Medicare on the Medicare website, which they NEVER did." If you stay on the line, these callers allege they can enroll you in a better plan than what you currently have, according to Scam Tracker reports. This new plan is cheaper, and you can keep all the same services. To get started, all you need to do is provide some personal information, such as your Medicare ID number. No matter how good the deal sounds and how convincing the caller seems, don't do it! The call is a scam, and sharing personal information will open you up to identity theft.

Selecting a health insurance plan can be challenging and complex. Be on the lookout for common red flags. Be wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Healthcare.gov and Medicare provide legitimate help with figuring out which plan is right for you. These people — sometimes called Navigators or Assisters — are not allowed to charge for their support. If someone asks you for payment, it's a scam. You will also need to contact them. They will not call you first.

Keep a healthy level of skepticism any time a broker offers you free gifts or other special deals. Never sign up with a broker who offers you an expensive sign-up gift in exchange for providing your Medicare ID number or additional personally identifiable information.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.