Healthcare has never been more important than it is now. Hospital treatment is expensive, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of needing emergency care — especially for seniors. And don’t think scammers aren’t paying attention to this.
Seniors are already a popular target among scammers as it is, and healthcare enrollment is giving cybercriminals a powerful tactic to use against them. Tap or click here to see a DOJ scam that’s also targeting seniors right now.
With open enrollment just around the corner, phone scammers are pretending to be government workers with information about healthcare plans. But if you give these callers your information, you could end up losing your savings and more. Here’s how you can spot the scammers.
A hard lesson at the worst possible time
Tulsa, Oklahoma resident Janet Chapin couldn’t believe her ears when she received a call from someone who had urgent news about her Medicare card. Apparently, her paper card was about to be replaced with a plastic one and she needed to update her information to make sure her new card arrived safely.
The caller asked for Janet’s name, address and Medicare card number. After that, they asked for more personal information like how often she went to the doctor. At this point, Janet realized something was wrong — but not before the scammer made off with the information she already shared.
As it turns out, the caller wasn’t a government worker at all but a scammer. And according to KJRH 2 Tulsa, who spoke with Janet, these scams are becoming much more common.
Medicare and ACA recipients beware
According to the Better Business Bureau, scams targeting seniors on Medicare and Affordable Care Act (ACA) recipients are on the rise as open enrollment draws near. These scams are designed to trick you into sharing information that can lead to identity theft, and the scammers behind them are highly aggressive about getting it out of you.
Here’s how it works: Scammers will call you or leave a message claiming to work for the government. They’ll say they have information to help you navigate your coverage options for either Medicare or the Affordable Care Act. They may make promises that they can enroll you in a better program than you currently have, or offer savings you can’t find elsewhere.
Here’s where the bait comes in. If you want to know more, all they ask for is some personal information like your Medicare ID number or Social Security number. Give this up, and you’ll be at a major risk for identity theft.
Another version of the scam reported to the BBB is much more aggressive. Just like what happened to Janet above, the scammers will try to scare you rather than help you. They’ll say that your information needs to be updated — and if you don’t play ball, your coverage will end.
This is especially scary considering how easy it is for at-risk individuals to end up in the hospital with a COVID-19 infection. Tap or click here to track the spread of the disease in your area.
How can I spot these healthcare scammers?
The BBB has a few suggestions of what to look for when these scammers come calling. If someone dials your phone claiming to have info on your healthcare plan, watch out for these red flags:
- Watch out for calls out of the blue. People representing Medicare or ACA plans don’t contact you by phone unless you’re already enrolled. And even then, they will never demand payment over the phone or threaten you.
- Refuse any gifts in exchange for personal information. Medicare or ACA callers will never offer you incentives to share personal data.
- Beware of dishonest brokers who offer “free health screenings.” Real ACA or Medicare representatives will not offer this.
- Never share your government-issued numbers. Once you pony up this information, it becomes easy to steal your identity. Only enroll or re-enroll in Medicare at Medicare.gov or with an ACA plan at Healthcare.gov.
If you happen to fall for the scam, take these steps below:
- Report the scam to the FTC by calling 844-330-2020 or on its website at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
- Submit a complaint to the FBI’s fraud tip line at justice.gov/criminal-fraud.
- If you or another victim you know is a senior, report the crime to National Elder Fraud Hotline at https://stopelderfraud.ovc.ojp.gov/.
The scams won’t stop as long as they continue to be successful but if you keep a sharp eye out, you’ll be able to spot the red flags easily. Please share this information with your loved ones so they also know what to watch for.