This year, open enrollment on Medicare.gov started Oct. 15, 2021 and runs to Dec. 7, 2021, and Healthcare.gov opened Nov. 1 and runs to Jan. 15, 2022. In addition, many public and private employers have their open enrollment seasons during this time of the year.
While evaluating your options for 2022, watch out for scammers targeting your money and personal information.
In 2021 the FCC issued the largest fine in its history – $225 million – against Texas-based telemarketers for transmitting approximately 1 billion robocalls, many of them illegally spoofed, to sell short-term, limited duration health insurance plans. The robocalls falsely claimed to offer plans from well-known health insurance companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and Cigna.
The real BCBS offers fraud prevention advice on its website, warning that it has received complaints about scammers who use spoofing to make it appear that calls are coming from its national “Call Blue” customer-service number (888-630-2583). However, the toll-free number can only receive incoming calls, according to BCBS, and they do not use that number to make calls. So if the “Call Blue” customer service number appears on your caller ID, the call is malicious and you should not answer.
Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has warned consumers that scammers often take advantage of people who have questions and concerns during open enrollment periods, by trying to confuse or mislead them.
Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim this season:
- Don't answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize, even if the number in your caller ID appears to be local. If you do answer the phone, but you become suspicious that the call isn't legitimate, don't hang on, hang up.
- Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Beware of any “free” offers.
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, Medicare ID numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords, or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a healthcare company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Contact legitimate health care insurance providers directly, using the customer service number on a billing statement or by finding a contact number on the provider's website.
What You Can Do
If you think that you’re a victim of a health care enrollment scam, you should first contact law enforcement to report it. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov. You can file a complaint about phone scams with the FCC Consumer Complaint Center.
If you are unsure about whether an insurance plan is valid, contact your state insurance commissioner's office. You can also call the customer service number on the plan's official website to speak with an official representative for that plan.
To learn more about how to avoid robocalls and caller ID spoofing scams, visit fcc.gov/robocalls, which provides a list of call-blocking and labeling resources.
Read the FCC Complaint Center FAQ to learn more about the FCC's informal complaint process, including how to file a complaint, and what happens after a complaint is filed.