Don’t get duped into providing personal information to scammers pretending to work for Medicare and ACA programs.
Every year, scammers try to dupe unsuspecting consumers into sharing their personal information during health insurance open enrollment season. This year is no exception.
According to new BBB.org/ScamTracker reports, Americans are getting scam calls phishing for their Medicare numbers and other personal information. This year, open enrollment runs Oct. 15-Dec. 7 for Medicare and Nov. 1-Dec. 15 for the Affordable Care Act.
This scam starts when you receive a call (or a recorded message) from someone claiming to be helping you navigate your Medicare options. They may call themselves a “health care benefits advocate” or a similar title. The caller says they can enroll you in a better Medicare program than what you currently have. 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. Of course, the call is a scam, and sharing personal information will open you up to identity theft.
In another version reported to BBB ScamTracker, the caller is trying to frighten you. In this case, they claim your Medicare will be discontinued if you don’t re-enroll. Fortunately, this “Medicare adviser” can fix the situation – if you share your personal information.
Also, BBB ScamTracker is getting reports about callers pushing “free” back or knee braces. This is Medicare fraud, and you can learn more about these scams on BBB.org.
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 unsolicited. People representing Medicare or ACA plans don’t contact you by phone, email or in person unless you are already enrolled. Be especially cautious of threatening calls that require quick action or immediate payment.
• Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Keep a healthy level of skepticism any time a broker offers you free gifts, health screenings 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 other personally identifiable information.
• Beware of dishonest brokers who offer “free health screenings.” Some brokers offer this to weed out people who are less healthy. This is called “cherry picking” and is against the Medicare rules.
• Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan info or banking information to anyone you don’t know.
• Hang up and go to official websites. You can enroll or re-enroll in Medicare at Medicare.gov or in a marketplace health plan at Healthcare.gov.
• Learn more about open enrollment and spotting Medicare or ACA scams on the Federal Trade Commission website at FTC.gov.
If you are unsure whether a call or offer is from Medicare, or you gave your personal information to someone claiming to be with Medicare, call (800) MEDICARE to report it. If you suspect fraud when signing up for ACA coverage, go to HealthCare.gov or call the Health Insurance Marketplace call center at (800) 318-2596.
For more tips from BBB on avoiding health care scams, check BBB.org/HealthCareScam. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, please report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. By sharing your experience, you can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.
Kelvin Collins is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, which includes the Augusta-Aiken metro area. Direct questions or complaints about a specific company or charity to (800) 763-4222 or [email protected]