As the season for open enrollment nears nationwide, so do annoying robocalls promising to offer affordable health insurance. And the unfortunate fact is that almost all of them are scams and far too many people will fall for them.
The employees of small to medium-size businesses may find themselves particularly vulnerable to these scams, as healthcare coverage is often top-of-mind for staff members. It’s important to remind your employees (and remember for yourself!) that not only are “sales” robocalls illegal, they may actually put you at risk.
The Scams By the Numbers
It's estimated that about 50 billion automated dialer calls are made in the US every year, and around 500 million of those calls are placed to Georgia residents. These calls – or scams to give them a more accurate title – are the number one complaint filed with the FTC. Whatever else the calls to, if a robocall tries to sell anything it is already in violation of Federal law, as legally robocalls cannot be used to sell anything.
As the FTC has clamped down on them some scam call creators have only got smarter. Now the majority of the calls are routed through a local number, which makes it difficult to ignore, especially for those with children or elderly relatives. What if someone is calling to inform you something wrong? It's a nasty, cynical ploy that scammers bank on lots of people falling for.
The simple act of answering the phone, even if you immediately hang up, captures data and the robocaller has confirmed they have found a working number. Choosing to “opt out” of future phone calls is a scam too — you can never actually “opt out.”
If you do pick up, a chatbot tries to capture even more of your personal information. If you provide any answers, your data will probably soon be available to scammers across the globe. Some calls start with a recorded message: If you respond in any way it will connect you with a sales rep or chatbot. Again, their goal is to get as much personal information or money from you as possible.
How Do You Recognize a Robocall?
With robocalls on the rise, especially at open enrollment, it’s important to know what to look for:
Any call coming in from an unrecognized number should be ignored – even from a local area. If it really is an emergency the caller would leave a message. Robocalls don’t generally leave a message – another clue that the call was automate
If screening calls, don’t be fooled by the “Choose 1 to opt out of future calls” option. This doesn’t opt you out, it only verifies the call has sourced a valid phone number. This will likely result in even more robocalls
The risk of responding to a robocall
If you do pick up and begin speaking to a “representative,: it will probably be a chatbot. Today’s technology has made telemarketers all but obsolete, but calls are even more common and annoying. Even the most basic data can be valuable, so do not provide anything.
Bots commonly ask for:
- Date of birth
- Number of household members
- Social Security number
This comes with the promise of connecting you with the best, most affordable insurance coverage.
Most aren’t interested in selling you anything–they’re interested in selling your private information to criminals.
Some bots do try to make sales. Recent reports found consumers that buy coverage through robocalls generally purchase substandard insurance that does not meet even the minimum requirements under the ACA. Still others are selling your personal information as leads to insurance brokers–so anticipate more calls coming your way.
In almost every case, tech is capturing data to sell to other robocalling companies. Americans who reveal their date of birth can be especially vulnerable. Older people are especially interesting to scammers who believe they’re more easily deceived.
One of the newest ways to deceive unsuspecting consumers is through impostor tech scams. The impostor technology shows the name and phone number of a genuine company on caller ID screens. Often these scammers even have personal information that legitimizes they are who they say they are. Actual Social Security Administration and the FBI numbers have been used in these scams.
It’s important to remember how sophisticated these criminals and their technology have become. Virtually no legitimate company will call and ask you to “verify” your personal data, even if caller ID makes it appear to be an actual number. Hang up quickly and call the company that’s tried to contact you. Tell them what you’ve been asked to reveal – they’ll more than likely verify it’s a scam.
What should managers tell employees when it comes to healthcare coverage robocall scams to help them avoid getting scammed ? Some important rules to share include all the following:
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers
- Don’t answer even to press a number to “opt out” of future calls
- Any caller trying to sell you anything – healthcare insurance included – is violating federal law (robocalls are not allowed to sell goods or services of any kind)
- Don’t answer a call that offers to send you “free’” anything – including medical devices. These scammers ask for Social Security numbers to “file a claim to send you a free device.” This is a scam to get your personal data, including your Social Security number.
- Block calls from unknown numbers on your phone
- Add phone numbers to “Do Not Call” registries, like donotcall.gov
- Search unrecognized phone numbers on the internet – often revealed as scammers
- Do not divulge any personal information over the phone – don’t even verify information the call has about you
For employees who are looking to add healthcare coverage, unsolicited phone calls are not legal and they’re not the way to find available plans.