Scammers are taking advantage of Medicare and Healthcare.gov open enrollment season to trick people out of their money and personal information, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Each year from October 15 through December 7, Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their coverage under the federal government’s health insurance program for adults 65 and older. It’s also open enrollment period through December 15 for Americans who shop for and enroll in medical insurance through the Healthcare.gov Marketplace.
BBB has received numerous reports of calls from scammers claiming they can help people find the best deal on coverage during open enrollment. However, all they really are looking to do is take advantage of people.
Find out how these open enrollment scams work and what you can do to avoid them.
How open enrollment scams work
This scam typically begins as an unsolicited phone call with an automated message that supposedly is from Medicare or Healthcare.gov. Caller ID might even show “government,” “Medicare” or a 202 area code, which is the District of Columbia area code.
According to reports received by BBB, callers will offer to help you enroll in a better Medicare or health insurance plan than you currently have. The new plan supposedly provides all of the coverage you currently have but at a lower price.
The story might vary, but the caller will inevitably ask for your Medicare or insurance number or other personal information. With that information, scammers can steal your identity. The caller also might ask you to pay a fee for assistance in finding or enrolling in a new plan.
How to avoid open enrollment scams
To avoid open enrollment scams, follow these steps recommended by BBB and the Federal Trade Commission.
Be wary of unsolicited calls. Representatives from Medicare and Healthcare.gov won’t call you out of the blue. These agencies do have what are called navigators and assisters who can help you explore your coverage options during open enrollment. However, you have to contact them. And they won’t charge for their services.
Don’t trust caller ID. Even if the call appears to come from a government agency, it could be coming from anywhere. Scammers can use technology to alter what appears on caller ID.
Don’t share your personal information. Legitimate Medicare employees have your Medicare number on file and won’t ask for it over the phone. Other government agencies also won’t ask for your personal information over the phone.
Don’t be lured by offers of free gifts or special deals. Scammers might try to tempt you to share your personal information or make a payment by offering you a sign-up gift or free health screening.
Ignore threats. Don’t be rushed into making a coverage decision. Open enrollment for Medicare lasts through December 7 and through December 15 for Healthcare.gov. There aren’t extra benefits for signing up early. And claims that your benefits can be taken away from you are false.
Don’t trust anyone who says their plan is preferred by Medicare. Medicare doesn’t endorse any Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plans.
How to get help during open enrollment
To explore Medicare coverage options, visit Medicare.gov. There also are legitimate organizations such as Boomer Benefits and Chapter that can help you compare plans and coverage at no cost.
To explore health insurance options through the federal Marketplace, visit Healthcare.gov. You also can get local, Marketplace-certified help.
If you receive a call from someone pretending to be with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) and report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. If you experience a scam related to Marketplace/Affordable Care Act coverage, go to HealthCare.gov or call the Health Insurance Marketplace call center at 800-318-2596.