HealthOp-EdOpinion

Stay Clear of Health Insurance Scams

If you are looking for health insurance be careful of scams. Scams are designed to get consumers to give up their personal financial information which enables the crooks to steal from you.

The D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking is warning District residents to be on the lookout for health insurance scams that put you at risk of losing your finances and identity. Scammers use many tricks to steal your personal financial information. Some scams use emails that look like legitimate inquiries but are actually from hackers requesting financial or other personal information; others include phony insurance calls that say you need to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

Case in point: A District resident received a phishing email link disguised as the D.C. Health Link, which is the District’s Health Insurance Exchange that helps D.C. residents compare, select, and buy health insurance. When the resident clicked on D.C.’s Health Link it took him to a screen to create an account, enter his email address and sign-in. He forgot his password so he clicked on “forgot password,” that prompted him to a screen to enter his bank check card and PIN number. He then realized that something was wrong and contacted the department who investigated the issue and informed him it was a phishing scam. In this particular scam he was directed from the insurance website and redirected to a fraudulent site that appeared identical to D.C. Health Link’s. Phishing scams are common. DISB encourages District residents to never disclose their personal financial information, such as bank accounts and PIN numbers, via email, telephone or any other means to someone you don’t know.

Another fraudulent scheme to lookout for is phony health insurance calls. If you get a call like this, hang up. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a person received a robocall with a local area code. The recorded message sounded urgent: “you need to buy health insurance or face a fine. To learn more, press 1.” A person who works in the Health Insurance Marketplace got the call and knew it was fishy, so she pressed 1. The operator claimed to “work for the law,” and asked for the person’s full name, date of birth, phone number, income information and Social Security number. The person who received the call knew it was nonsense, so they hung up and contacted the FTC. The FTC suggests if you receive a recorded sales call and you didn’t give the caller written permission to call you, the call is illegal. HANG UP — don’t press 1 to speak to the operator or get your name taken off the list, and don’t give any personal information. If you respond, you’ll probably receive more calls. The Health Insurance Marketplace does not make robocalls and would not ask for personal information. To obtain information about health insurance in the District of Columbia, visit D.C. Health Link’s website.

Don’t be a victim of a health insurance scam. Listed below are some tips that will help minimize your chances of being at risk.

  • Don’t follow the links or download attachments in the email. You can go directly to the DC Health Link website by typing in dchealthlink.com into your web browser.
  • Always remember, you never need to give anyone your Social Security number, credit card, bank account and phone numbers to obtain health insurance. Even if someone calls or comes to the door to talk about health plans, tell them to mail the information to you and then check it out before you add your private data to the form. Don’t be afraid to ask someone else to review the information as well.
  • If you get an email that you aren’t sure is legitimate, delete it immediately or ignore it.
  • Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.

If you suspect that you have been a victim of a health insurance scam, please contact the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking at disb.dc.gov or by phone 202-727-8000.

The mission of the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking is twofold: (1) protect consumers by providing equitable, thorough, efficient, and prompt regulatory supervision of the financial services companies, firms, and individuals operating in the District of Columbia; and (2) develop and improve market conditions to attract and retain financial services firms to the District of Columbia. Visit online at disb.dc.gov.

Lucy Drafton-Lowery is the public affairs specialist for the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

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