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Caroline Bielas and Michael Hickox
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Watch Out for a New Health Insurance Phone Scam!
By: Caroline Bielas, 11/24/2021

The pandemic has certainly been a boon for phone scammers. According to a 2021 Harris Poll and Truecaller ID survey, nearly 1 in 3 Americans have fallen victim to a phone scam in the last year, and 59.4 million Americans lost money to a phone scam, costing a record-high average of $502 per person and a total of $29.8 billion (yes, billion).

Scammers are very good at what they do – they have the technology available to appear legitimate and convincing, and the skills to know exactly how to manipulate and intimidate people to get them to pay. Scammers often prey on older adults, believing them to be more susceptible. Unfortunately, this is often the case – older adults who experience cognitive decline, physical disability, loss of independence, fear of financial insecurity, loss of a spouse or other loved ones, and/or dependence on children for decision-making, are certainly more likely to become victims of such illicit activity – and less likely to report it.

Because we are currently in the middle of the health care open enrollment period, one of the newer scams that has spiked recently involves a phone call from someone claiming that they can enroll you in a health care plan that will cost you significantly less than your current plan yet provide the same coverage and services. Other callers bully you by threatening that if you don’t reenroll, your Medicare coverage will be discontinued. In any case, you can expect that the caller will try to get you to pay for bogus health care plans or to obtain enough personal information to steal your identity.

Tips to Avoid Phone Scams:

1.    Be careful to whom you give your phone number.

2.    Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers even if the number is local – let it go to voice mail. Scammers are really good at creating local phone numbers that look familiar and safe.

3.    If you do answer a call, and it seems even a little suspicious, hang up immediately!

4.    If you receive an unsolicited phone call from someone who pressures you to make a decision immediately, hang up.

5.    Block and report spam calls and/or put your number on the do-not call registry (www.donotcall.gov ). Most mobile service providers have free software apps that allow you to screen or block automated calls.

6.    Talk to someone you trust before making any final decision or giving out any personal information.

None of these tips will guarantee that you don’t get caught up in these types of scams. However, being aware and sensible will go a long way towards protecting yourself from becoming a victim. If you believe you may already have been a victim of a phone scam, begin by reporting it to the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) immediately, either online or by calling 877 382-4357 (TTY: 866 653-4261).

 

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