Better Business Bureau warns of open enrollment scams

If you are adding or changing your Medicareor Healthcare.gov coverage during open enrollment, watch out for unsolicited calls claiming to “help” you find the best deal.

Unfortunately, scammers see this open enrollment period as a chance to trick people out of money and personal information. Open enrollment runs through Dec. 7. (Medicare) or Dec. 15 (Healthcare.gov).

The Better Business Bureau advises caution to avoid scams during this open enrollment period.

How the scam works
Open enrollment has just begun, but BBB Scam Tracker has already gotten numerous reports of scam calls pretending to be from Medicare. In one report, the target received “an automated message from Medicare and how they could help me. When I followed the prompts, it led me to a nice-sounding male who claimed they were working for Medicare.”

In another report, the person received calls claiming, “I requested information from them about Medicare on the Medicare website, which I never did.”

If you stay on the line, these callers allege they can enroll you in a better plan than what you currently have, according to Scam Tracker reports. This new plan is cheaper, and you can keep all the same services. To get started, all you need to do is provide some personal information, such as your Medicare ID number.

No matter how good the deal sounds and how convincing the caller seems, don’t do it. The call is a scam, and sharing personal information will expose you to identity theft.

Tips to avoid open enrollment scams
Selecting a health insurance plan can be challenging and complex. Be on the lookout for common red flags.

Be wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue
Healthcare.gov and Medicare provide legitimate help determining which plan is right for you. These people — sometimes called Navigators or Assisters — cannot charge for their support. If someone asks you for payment, it’s a scam. You will also need to contact them. They will not call you first.

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 additional personally identifiable information. Other times, brokers offer free “health screenings” to weed out people who are less healthy. This technique is called “cherry picking” and is against 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.

Contact your employer directly
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.

For more information
If you are unsure whether a call or offer is from Medicare or you gave your personal information to someone claiming to be with Medicare, call (800) MEDICARE to report it. If you suspect fraud when signing up for ACA coverage, go to HealthCare.gov or call the Health Insurance Marketplace call center at (800) 318-2596.

Get more tips from BBB on avoiding health care scams. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Sharing your experience can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.