Many area residents of the Cottonwood County area are taking a close look at healthcare coverage during this time of open enrollment.
Unfortunately, so are the scammers.
Posing as an authority
The Better Business Bureau cautions consumers to stay alert to fraudulent calls and messages about healthcare coverage.
Healthcare scams are as varied as just about any con out there. The fraudster often poses as a government authority to persuade you to provide personal information related to your Medicare or Medicaid account for identity theft.
In other cases, the con artist is after your health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare information to submit fraudulent medical charges.
How the scam works
The scam typically starts with an email, text message or phone call that appears to be from a government agency.
Con artists use a variety of stories. In one common version, the “agent” tells you that he or she needs to update account information to send a new medical card. In another version, the scammer asks for your account number in exchange for free equipment or services.
A third version involves a threatening robocall purporting to be from HealthCare.gov or the Health Insurance Marketplace. You’re told you must buy health insurance or face a fine. Sure enough, you’re soon asked to provide personal information.
A more recent version has reported Medicare recipients receiving notices that new Medicare cards with microchips will be sent out and further verification is required.
How to avoid the scam
• Don’t trust a name or number. Con artists use official-sounding names or mask their area codes by spoofing to make you trust them. Don’t fall for it.
• Hang up and go to official websites. You can enroll or re-enroll in Medicare at Medicare.gov or a marketplace health plan at Healthcare.gov.
• Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether over the phone, by email, or on social media. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, Social Security or Social Insurance number, and, of course, your health insurance number.
• 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.
• Know the signs. Medicare will never contact you via email, text message or phone, asking you to verify personal information.
Share your scam story
Local law enforcement is concerned about the impact of scams on area residents, particularly the elderly.
Consequently, this newspaper works with local police and sheriff’s departments to keep residents updated on common schemes. Scam Alerts will appear in future editions as often as possible in the coming weeks.
Readers can also find online scam updates Tuesdays at windomnews.com.
If you have been the target of a scam, your first contact should be local authorities. Also, feel free to contact us with details (we can keep your name confidential).
Send your story to: email@example.com, or call 507-831-3455. By sharing, you could prevent someone from being scammed.