By Sonya Sellmeyer, Consumer Advocate
Fraudsters like change. During the open enrollment window, when millions of Americans can change their healthcare plans for the next year, con artists come out in force.
For scammers, open enrollment is open season to steal your money and identity or rip off Medicare or your insurance company. Open enrollment comes with lots of advertisements and news stories. Scammers latch on to news headlines and use things that are true to try to add credibility to their story.
Scams come in all shapes and sizes. It could involve someone pretending to be from Medicare out to steal your Medicare number. It could be a durable medical equipment company trying to prescribe you a back brace to steal Medicare’s money. It could be a fraudulent healthcare provider offering you a free genetic health screening to steal your identity and stick you with the bill.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft and imposter scams are the two most common types of scams reported to its Consumer Sentinel Network.
The FTC recommends reviewing quality ratings of plans at Healthcare.gov, the government’s ACA website. Starting last year, certified partners can directly sign up people for insurance plans on the exchange. The FTC recommends you verify through Healthcare.gov that a certified partner is on the approved list. The website also offers a local assistance tool that can connect you with people and organizations locally who can assist you for free.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a scam alert tied to this year’s Medicare open enrollment. One scam involves a caller claiming to be a “health care benefits advocate” or similar title, offering to enroll you in a new plan with the same services, but only cheaper. It’s a phishing scam to steal your Medicare card number.
Another scam reported to the BBB uses fear and intimidation to get your Medicare card number and other personal information. In this scam, the caller says your Medicare will be discontinued if you don’t reenroll directly with them on the phone.
Iowa SHIIP and SMP counselors are here to help you find the Medicare plan that best fits your unique needs or to report Medicare fraud. Iowa SHIIP and SMP are programs within the Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services. Always remember to double-check with the Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services to ensure an insurance agent is licensed and in good standing to do business in Iowa.