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Consumer Advocate: Watch for Medicare and ACA Scams During Special Enrollment Period | Business

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In an effort to help many Americans left unemployed and uninsured during the pandemic, the US Department of Health and Human Services has reopened. Healthcare.gov for a special registration period from February 15 to May 15. Unfortunately, crooks will take this additional listing as an opportunity to do what they do best – rip off unsuspecting victims.

Fraudsters are known to have used new government initiatives to confuse and mislead consumers. During the fall open registration period, BBB.org/ScamTracker has received numerous reports from scammers claiming to be a government official helping consumers navigate their Medicare or Affordable Care Act coverage.

Victims say they received phone calls from a health care benefits advocate to help them choose a better plan than the one they are currently using. Once scammers grab consumers’ attention with the allure of health savings, they will start looking for personal information such as a Medicare ID number or Social Security number. Unfortunately, this scam usually leads to identity fraud.

Another version of this scam involves crooks trying to scare victims into claiming that their current healthcare plan will be abandoned if they don’t re-enroll immediately. This scam most likely ends in identity fraud.

Choosing a health insurance plan can be difficult and complex. BBB encourages consumers to be on the lookout for similar scams during the new open registration period. Healthcare.gov provides legitimate information to help you decide which plan is right for you.

Use BBB tips to spot and avoid this popular healthcare scam:

Beware of anyone who contacts you in an unsolicited manner. People representing Medicare or ACA plans do not contact you by phone, email, or in person, unless you are already enrolled. Pay special attention to threatening calls that require quick action or immediate payment. Hang them up if they become harassing in any way. Don’t let them get the best of you. They are the pros at what to say to rip you off.

Protect your government issued numbers. Never give out your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan information, or banking information to someone you don’t know. Never. This information in the hands of the wrong person can cause you more distress.

• Hang up and go to official websites. You can enroll or re-enroll in Medicare atMedicare.govor in a market health plan atHealthcare.gov.

Beware of dishonest brokers who offer free health exams, some brokers offer this to weed out less healthy people. This is called cherry picking and is against Medicare rules.

Refuse promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Maintain a healthy level of skepticism whenever a broker gives you free giveaways, health checkups, or other specials. Never sign up with a broker who gives you an expensive signup gift in exchange for providing your Medicare ID number or other personally identifiable information.

If you spot a scam, whether or not you’ve lost money, report it to BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTrackerand the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.

Marjorie Stephens is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.

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