Open enrollment season is when many Americans enroll in or change health care plans. But to many scammers, it is open season on consumers.
As enrollment deadlines approach, HealthCare.gov and Medicare.gov subscribers, federal government employees, and many others who are evaluating their options for 2020 should be alert to scam callers impersonating insurance companies in order to pedal bogus plans.
YouMail, a company that provides consumer call-blocking apps for mobile phones, recently released data for October that showed a major spike in health-related scam calls. With more than 473 million calls, October's numbers were more than 29 percent greater than September's. YouMail reports the top two scams for the month were about health insurance topics – "pre-approvals ready" and "currently accepting enrollments."
Blue Cross Blue Shield is warning consumers about scammers who use spoofing techniques to make it appear that calls are coming from its national "Call Blue" customer-service number (888-630-2583). The toll-free number can only receive calls – BCBS does not call from that number, so consumers should know that if it appears as an incoming call in their caller ID, the call is spoofed, and likely fraudulent.
To avoid becoming a victim of an open enrollment scam:
- Don't answer calls from numbers you don't recognize, even if the numbers in your caller ID appear 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.
- Likewise, if you receive an unsolicited call from someone pressuring you to act immediately, just hang up.
- 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.
- Contact your state insurance commissioner's office to confirm whether an insurance plan is valid. You can also call the customer service number on the plan's official website to speak with a representative for that plan.
- For legitimate information on health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, visit healthcare.gov, and for information on Medicare visit medicare.gov.
- To learn more about how to avoid robocalls and caller ID spoofing scams, visit fcc.gov/robocalls.
What You Can Do
If you think that you are a victim of a health care enrollment scam, you should first contact law enforcement to report it.
File a complaint with your state insurance commissioner's office .
File an identity theft report with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
You can also file a complaint about phone scams with the FCC. Health insurance robocalls rank high among the top categories of consumer complaints received by the FCC.
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.