It’s that time of year when open enrollment is available for health care plans through Medicare.gov, Healthcare.gov, and individual employers. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of this opportunity to confuse and mislead victims.
Healthcare.gov open enrollment runs through Jan. 15.
Medicare.gov open enrollment ended Dec.7.
How the scam works
This year, BBB is seeing a convincing new phishing scam pretending to be an email from your employer. During open enrollment, the message claims you need to review and approve your employment benefits policy. All you have to do is download a form or click a link to read the details. However, if you do so, you may be asked to share personal information, or you could even download malware onto your computer. Business email compromise scams like this have become increasingly common and sophisticated.
That’s not the only way con artists are taking advantage of open enrollment season. BBB Scam Tracker has received many reports about scammers claiming to be a government representative who can help you navigate your Medicare or Affordable Care Act options. Scammers claim to be a “health care benefits advocate” or a similar title. These scammers allege they can enroll you in a better 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 yet another common scam, callers try to frighten victims with their health care plans rather than assist them. In a typical scenario, scammers might claim that they will discontinue your Medicare if you didn’t re-enroll. Fortunately, this “Medicare advisor” can fix the situation – if you share personal information with them.
Tips to avoid open enrollment scams
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. Healthcare.gov and Medicare provide legitimate help with figuring out which plan is right for you and offer assistance through employees — sometimes called Navigators or Assisters — who are not allowed to charge for their help. If someone asks you for payment, it’s a scam. You will also need to contact Medicare for assistance. They will not call you out-of-the-blue.
Be wary of gifts and “health screenings.” Keep a healthy level of skepticism whenever a broker offers you 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 identifiable personal information. Other times, brokers offer free “health screenings” to weed out less healthy people. 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.
Go directly to official websites. If you want to make changes to your health care plan, go directly to Medicare.gov, Healthcare.gov, or your employer’s health insurance provider. Don’t click on links in suspicious messages.
Contact your employer directly. If you receive an unexpected email about benefits policies, ask your employer about it before you click on anything to make sure it’s legitimate.
For more information
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 1-800-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.
Get more tips for avoiding health care scams on BBB.org. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim.