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Open Enrollment scams targeting local senior citizens

Scams use phone calls, text and email
Sylvia is 76 years old and lives on Indy’s westside.  Her phone rings nonstop with phone calls claiming to be with Medicare, even though she uses Anthem.
Posted at 3:00 PM, Oct 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-24 18:28:54-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Sylvia is 76 years old and lives on Indy’s westside.

Her phone rings nonstop with phone calls claiming to be with Medicare, even though she uses Anthem.

“It really aggravates me that they keep calling,” said Sylvia. “I say’ how many times do I have to tell you, stop calling me!’"

This is the time of year Open Enrollment scams are on the rise, as Medicare and other health insurance plans offer users a change to update their plans for 2023.

“They're taking advantage of people, mostly senior citizens,” said Sylvia. “Seniors has enough problems as it is. I cuss them out when they call me. "

This is the time of year Open Enrollment scams are on the rise, as Medicare and other health insurance plans offer users a change to update their plans for 2023.

Their goal—to get your personal information and steal your identity.

Sylvia hangs up before they can get any personal information out of her, but she can understand why others might fall for it.

“A lot of people do not have the brain faculties that I have,” said Sylvia. “I remember so much.”

The Better Business Bureau issued a warning about Open Enrollment scams this month, because they’re spiking this time of year.

Scammers know Medicare’s enrollment period runs from October 15 through December 7.

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Typically, the scammers call, text or email posing as a representative from Medicare or a health insurer.

"There's a convincing phishing scam pretending to be an email from your employer,” said Jennifer Adamany, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana. “The message claims you need to review and approve your employment benefits policy by downloading a form or clicking on a link to read the details. But if you do, you may be asked to share personal information or you could even download malware onto your computer.”

The BBB says you should look for red flags:

  • Be wary of anyone who contacts you unsolicited. Healthcare.gov and Medicare do provide  is right for you. These people — sometimes called Navigators or Assisters — are not allowed to charge for their help. If someone asks you for payment, it’s a scam. You will also need to contact them. They will not call you out-of-the-blue.  
  • Be wary of free gifts and "health screenings." Keep a healthy level of skepticism any time a broker offers you free gifts or other special deals. Never sign up with a broker who offers you an expensive sign-up gift in exchange for providing your Medicare ID number or other personally identifiable information. Other times, brokers offer free "health screenings" to weed out people who are less healthy. This is called “cherry picking” and is against the Medicare rules. 
  • Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan info, or banking information to anyone you don’t know. 
  • Go directly to official websites. If you want to make changes to your health care plan, go directly to Medicare.gov , Healthcare.gov , or your employer's health insurance provider. Don't click on links in suspicious messages.  

"If anyone asks you for a payment it's a scam,” said Adamany. "Never sign up with a broker who offers you an expensive gift in exchange for providing personally identifiable information."

Sylvia says the best thing to do is hang up.

“Don’t listen to them, because they’re scamming you,” said Sylvia.

If you receive an unexpected email about benefits policies, ask your employer about it before you click on anything to make sure it’s legitimate. 

TIPS FROM MEDICARE:

Do:

  • Protect your Medicare Number and your Social Security Number.
  • Guard your Medicare card like it’s a credit card.
  • Become familiar with how Medicare uses your personal information. If you join a Medicare health or drug plan, the plan will let you know how it will use your personal information.
  • Remember that Medicare will never call you to sell you anything or visit you at your home. Medicare, or someone representing Medicare, will only call and ask for personal information in these 2 situations:
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
  • A Medicare health or drug plan may call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join can also call you.
  • A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE can call you if you’ve called and left a message or a representative said that someone would call you back.

Don’t:

  • Give your Medicare card, Medicare Number, Social Security card, or Social Security Number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it (like insurers acting on your behalf or people who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)
  • Accept offers of money or gifts for free medical care.
  • Allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.
  • Join a Medicare health or drug plan over the phone unless you called us.

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