BBB November Scams


Senior Targeted Scams During Open Enrollment

Every year during health insurance open enrollment season, scammers try to dupe unsuspecting consumers into sharing their personal information. This year is no exception. We’ve noticed from Scam Tracker that Americans are getting scam calls phishing for their Medicare numbers and other personal information. This year, open enrollment runs October 15 - December 7, 2020 for Medicare and November 1- December 15, 2020 for the Affordable Care Act.

How the Scam Works:

You receive a call (or a recorded message) from someone who claims to be helping you navigate your Medicare options. They may call themselves a “health care benefits advocate” or a similar title that sounds official.The caller says they can enroll you in a better Medicare program than what you currently have. 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. Of course, the call is a scam, and sharing personal information will open you up to identity theft.

In another version reported to Scam Tracker the caller is trying to frighten and pressure you rather than assisting. In this case, they claim that your Medicare will be discontinued if you don’t re-enroll. Fortunately, this “Medicare advisor” can fix the situation – if only you share your personal information.

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 unsolicited. People representing Medicare or ACA plans don’t contact you by phone, email, or in person unless you are already enrolled. Be especially cautious of threatening calls that require quick action or immediate payment. If you have a gut feeling, always hang up

and call an official contact number from their website.

Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Be skeptical any time a broker offers you free gifts, health screenings, or other special deals

to sign-up. 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.

Beware of dishonest brokers who offer “free health screenings.” Some brokers offer this 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/insurance info, or banking information to anyone you don’t know.

Hang up and go to official websites. You can enroll or re-enroll in Medicare at

Medicare.gov or in a marketplace health plan at Healthcare.gov.

COVID-19 Clinical Scam Promises Big Bucks

Thought we had seen the end of COVD-19 scams? Think again! Scammers are sending out text messages promoting participation in phony clinical studies. Don’t be tempted by the opportunity to help scientists while making extra cash. Make sure it’s the real thing before you sign up.

How the Scam Works

You receive an unsolicited message via text, email, or a social media message. It explains that you may qualify for a COVID-19 study, which pays upwards of $1,000. One version received by BBB staff read: “Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to

$1,220! Qualify Here: [link removed] stop2stop.”

No matter how curious you are – or how much you could use an extra $1,200 – don’t click. It’s a scam! The phony message includes a link to see whether or not you qualify for the study. If you click it, you could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or phone. This virus can give scammers access to your usernames, passwords, and other personal information stored on your computer.

In other cases, the link may take you to a website that looks like a real clinical trial. You will be asked for personal information, such as government ID or bank account numbers. Real medical researchers would never ask for this information during the

screening process!

How to Avoid Clinical Trial Scams

●Look up the domain. Use lookup.icann.org to look up the URL. Look for warning signs such as a very recent registration date or registration in a foreign country.

●Think the trial is real? Find it on the official website. If you receive a

message about a study and want to confirm whether it’s true, go directly to (or do a web search for) the organization’s website for further information. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) also maintain ClinicalTrials.gov, a free searchable database of clinical studies on a wide range of diseases. If there is no government agency, university, or hospital

mentioned, it’s likely a scam.

●Never pay to be part of a clinical trial. Real clinical trials will never ask you to pay them.

●Legitimate clinical trials do gather information about candidates – but not financial information. To screen for participants, a real study might ask for your name, contact information, age, gender, race, ethnicity, or various pre-existing medical conditions. But they should never ask you for information like your bank

account details.

If you’re suspicious of a scam or have fallen victim, always report it! Report your scam to Scamtracker.org, or call your Cincinnati BBB at 513-421-3015.