BBB Scam Alert: Beware of Health Care Cons During Open Enrollment



 

It’s that time of year again, when open enrollment is available for health care plans through Medicare.govHealthcare.gov, and individual employers. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of this opportunity to confuse and mislead victims.

This year, Healthcare.gov open enrollment runs from November 1, 2021 to January 15, 2022.  Medicare.gov open enrollment was from October 15, 2021 – December 7, 2021. Many employers also hold open enrollment for commercial insurance plans at the end of the year.

How the scam works

This year, BBB is seeing a convincing new phishing scam pretending to be an email from your employer. The message claims you need to review and approve your employment benefits policy during open enrollment. 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 open enrollment con, though. BBB Scam Tracker has gotten 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 – rather than assist – victims with their health care plans. In one common scenario, scammers claim that your Medicare will be discontinued 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 unsolicitedHealthcare.gov and Medicare do 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 help. If someone asks you for payment, it’s a scam. You will also need to contact them. They will not call you out-of-the-blue.
  • Be wary of free gifts and “health screenings.” 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 other personally identifiable information. Other times, brokers offer free “health screenings” 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.
  • 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 from BBB on avoiding health care scams. 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.

 

Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau