How can unwitting consumers be scammed? Let us count the ways. All nods to Shakespeare aside, falling victim to scammers is nothing to kid about. Furthermore, one of the latest scams to be perpetrated against consumers – a scam involving health insurance open enrollment – proves that nothing is off the table in the fight to separate you from your hard-earned money.
Authorities in Central Indiana spent the better part of December 2021 warning state residents of a scam being perpetrated by individuals calling consumers and pretending to be government healthcare navigators ready to help them obtain benefits through a state exchange.
Let us just establish right up front that all scams are reprehensible. However, this particular scam is more reprehensible than most because it plays on one of the fundamental fears among American consumers: getting sick and not being able to afford healthcare services. The people responsible for the scam ought to be ashamed of themselves, though we know they are not.
How the Scam Works
The open enrollment scam is quite simple. Someone posing as a government healthcare navigator begins cold calling innocent consumers until they get a bite. A ‘bite’ constitutes someone who is willing to believe the legitimacy of the caller enough to reveal personal information. Those who fall for the scam literally give away their identities over the phone.
For their part, the scammers are incredibly good at convincing consumers of their ability to help navigate state insurance exchanges in order to help their victims allegedly purchase new coverage. Some are even slick enough to offer some sort of ‘incentive’ to encourage participation. The most sophisticated among them do not end the conversation until they have obtained credit card information that they say they need to make the first payment.
When all is said and done, the scammer walks away with enough personal information to rob the victim blind before that person ever knows what has happened. As far as scams go, the open enrollment scam is both brilliant and easy to pull off.
How to Identify the Scam
The unfortunate truth about scams of this nature is that they are only successful when consumers are ignorant. The best way to prevent being victimized is to understand the scam’s mechanics and learn the telltale signs that you are being played.
BenefitMall is a Dallas general agency that represents more than a hundred insurance carriers and thousands of benefits brokers around the country. They explain that people who obtain benefits through their employers should never even entertain phone calls or emails from people purporting to be healthcare navigators. They access open enrollment at work, not through a third party.
For everyone else, BenefitMall offers the following signs of a scam in progress:
- Unsolicited Contact – Certified healthcare navigators never make cold calls or send unsolicited emails. If you want the help of a genuine navigator, you have to contact them. Never trust anyone who contacts you unsolicited.
- Service Charges – Genuine healthcare navigators will never charge you for your service. They are not allowed to. They get paid by their employers to do what they do. If you are being asked to pay a service fee, hang up the phone or delete the email.
- Personal Information – Anyone asking for personal, identifying information over the phone is not to be trusted. A genuine healthcare navigator will never do that.
That certain people think nothing of preying on fears of not being to obtain affordable health insurance is abhorrent. But as the open enrollment scam demonstrates, nothing is off the table for the degenerates who perpetrate it.