Scammers Use Obamacare to Target Medicare Recipients

  • Originally published October 2, 2013 , last updated April 28, 2016
  • Medicare, ACA
Scammers Use Obamacare to Target Medicare Recipients

Agents and financial planners should warn their Medicare clients of a growing threat: the launch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is attracting scammers who target Medicare recipients.

An Oct. 1 Reuters newswire article reported that consumer advocates and legal experts are seeing a rise in ACA-related identity theft and other scams targeting people on Medicare. The government shut-down also may be providing scammers more fodder. And the calendar proximity of the Oct. 1 ACA launch with Medicare’s Oct. 15 kick-off of the annual enrollment period is further complicating matters.

Because political attacks on the law, also known as Obamacare, already have confused many seniors, scam artists are feeding off that misinformation to further scare them, the article said.

"They'll tell you Obamacare means you need to change your Medicare, or that you need to re-apply for Medicare — or that if you don't buy a new kind of insurance you're going to get fined or go to jail," Joe Baker, president of the non-profit Medicare Rights Center, told Reuters.

Another article reported that scammers calling Medicare recipients claim to need personal information so that the recipients’ Medicare coverage will not be disrupted or so that seniors will receive a rebate. There also are reports of fake websites displaying official-looking government seals and purporting to offer Obamacare insurance policies.

So how is a Medicare recipient supposed to keep it all straight and be safe?

As an agent or retirement planner, you’re in a position to further build your trust with these clients. Tell them to be aware of scams and follow these guidelines:

  • You can ignore the ACA’s health care exchanges.
    You don’t need to make any changes in your Medicare coverage because of Obamacare. If already on Medicare, you don’t need Obamacare health insurance, and it’s actually illegal for insurers to sell an exchange policy to anyone on Medicare.
  • Be suspicious of solicitations.
    Dennis Jay, executive director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a national alliance of insurers, government agencies and consumer groups, told Reuters that Medicare will never call or knock on doors to solicit you. The Better Business Bureau, in a recent press release, reinforces this, saying that government agencies normally communicate through the mail — so be cautious of calls, text messages or emails. And a Kiplinger’s article states that even the so-called legit “navigators,” or people helping sign up the uninsured for Obamacare, will not cold-call you or send you an email trying to sell you a policy. There are, however, legitimate companies who help you sign up for Medicare coverage, but only after you’ve given them permission.

The BBB suggests following these precautions for unsolicited calls:

  • Hang up. The best protection to an unwanted solicitation is to just hang up the phone. Do not press any buttons during the call or call back.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers have technology that lets them display any number or organization name on your screen.
  • Keep your personal information to yourself. Never give out personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, date of birth or Social Security numbers to unfamiliar callers.