LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- Right now, many people are signing up for health insurance. Scammers are also taking advantage at this time by duping unsuspecting consumers into sharing their personal information.
This year, open enrollment runs right now through December 7 for Medicare and for the Affordable Care Act, you have until December 15 to enroll.
Now, many people across Acadiana are getting scam calls phishing for their Medicare numbers and other personal information.
“Scammers are taking advantage of the open enrollment time for Medicare,” Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said. “It’s when Medicare recipients have the option to weigh their plan, make changes to it, and decide if they even want a different plan out there. Scammers know that that’s going on and what they’re doing is contacting unsuspecting consumers, mostly those that are on Medicare claiming to be with some type of government organization and that they need their personal information from them.”
Consumers receive a phone call or recorded message from someone claiming to help people navigate the Medicare system.
The recording sounds like this: “I’m from Medicare. We’re sending out the new cards and I need to confirm your billing information to keep your coverage active. For your protection, I need your last four numbers of your social security number. We need this urgently or else you’ll be charged a fee.”
An expert from the Federal Trade Commission has this advice on how you can protect yourself from Medicare scams.
“Scammers call people pretending to be Medicare representatives,” Cora Tung Han, Attorney with the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection with the FTC, explained. “If you receive a phone call from someone acting like a Medicare rep, asking for your personal information, bank details, or Medicare number, it’s a scam. Do not give any personal information or money.”
These scammers posing as Medicare representatives call themselves a “health care benefits advocate” and claim to be able to enroll you in a better Medicare program than what you currently have. They even sometimes offer “free” back or knee braces to further the scam.
“They’re not going to give your free equipment,” Han said. “They just want your information for identity theft.”
“It can lead to identity theft. The reason for that is that the Medicare number is unique to each individual, and we know that if that number falls into the hands of scammers, that they can do what they call different types of medical fraud and get different funds and things in your name that you would typically be eligible for and take those eligibilities from you,” said Babin.
Selecting a health insurance plan can be challenging and complex. Be on the lookout for these common red flags of a scam:
- Be wary of anyone who contacts you unsolicited… especially threatening calls that require quick action or immediate payment.
- Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Anytime a booker offers you free gifts, health screenings, or other special deals… be skeptical.
- Beware of dishonest brokers who offer “free health screenings.” This is against Medicare rules.
- Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, social security number, or bank information to anyone you don’t know.
If you have a scam you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com.