With only weeks left in Medicare’s Open Enrollment period, there’s still lots of confusion among Medicare subscribers, creating a giant opportunity for scammers to swoop in, convince seniors that they’re there to save the day, but do nothing except take the money and run.
Among the things that Medicare says are causing concern are whether or not your doctors are still in-network and what drugs are or aren’t in the plan’s 2024 list of covered drugs, or "formulary."
With this information in hand, scammers are flooding the country with open-enrollment related calls – more than 800,000 in the past two weeks alone. Transaction Network Services (TNS) says these calls showcase the evolving sophistication in using technology and tools – including AI voice cloning that eclipses the old, phony-sounding calls of the past.
TNS should know. The company analyzes more than 1.5 billion daily call events across hundreds of carrier networks to identify current robocall trends and scams.
And what their analysts shared with ConsumerAffairs is downright scary. Here are samples of AI-created robocalls that scammers are using to flood the marketplace.
What scammers are pitching:
TNS told ConsumerAffairs that this year, the menu of scam pitches has three entried: Medicare advisor scams, supplemental coverage or updated benefits scams, and scammers spoofing the phone number of Medicare as well as health or drug plans.
Medicare advisor scams: These calls frequently are disguised as a Medicare representative asking you questions. At first, they’ll soft-soap things to get your confidence but eventually, they’ll get around to asking for your social security number or banking information.
TNS analysts said that those scammers may become aggressive and repeatedly call until they receive the information they are phishing for. “In many cases, we see scammers call at least twice a day, every day, and sometimes from numerous telephone numbers,” TNS’ robocall expert John Haraburda said.
Supplemental coverage or updated benefits scams: “Scammers may try to convince consumers that they qualify for additional healthcare benefits with little to no costs or that they could save thousands of dollars on drugs or other out-of-pocket costs,” Haraburda said.
“Some scammers may try to convince consumers that their plans have been updated to include grocery cards, help with utilities or even get money back on social security checks. Bad actors will try to get consumers to provide personal information for a variety of reasons like to send a new card, to update benefits, or to prevent plans from being canceled. They may even ask to mail in your old card.”
Spoofed numbers: Medicare’s website is emphatic that the only time a consumer will receive a call from a health or drug plan is if they are already a member of that plan. Armed with that knowledge, scammers are “spoofing” the phone numbers of those companies as well as 1-800-MEDICARE.
If you get a call like that, you’d be smart to
a) Let it go to voicemail, then;
b) Call back the real company phone number that’s listed on the real company’s website. Do NOT call back any other number; but
c) If the caller ID says “1-800-MEDICARE,” let the call go to voicemail, then call the real 1-800-MEDICARE and ask them why they were calling. The people there will tell you the truth. By the way, Medicare now offers online chat, too, so you can contact the agency that way, too.
There’ll be more where this came from
With the innovations that AI is allowing scammers to make, what’s coming down the pike in the way of robocalls and robotexts will be scary good for them, scary bad for us.
TNS’ Scam of the Month tracking is already starting to pick up the scent of three holiday scams. There’ll be the time-tested delivery and gift card scams, of course, but there’ll also be new twists on donation scams.
“Many scammers will cold call posing as real charities, but some give the name of a made-up organization and others will even spoof the numbers of legitimate charities,” the TNS analysts said.
The pressure tactic scammers will likely use in a charity scam is the importance of doing an “end-of-year tax write-off.”
“Luckily it is easy to check the validity of a charity through the web, so be sure to do your research before giving. A major red flag is if the caller is asking for a donation via wire transfer, cryptocurrency or gift cards. If you wish to donate, it is best to donate directly to the charity to ensure it gets into the right hands,” the analysts suggest.