Taking full advantage of U.S. national attention on the Affordable Care Act, the government shutdown, and the start of enrollment via the official Healthcare Insurance Marketplace, scammers are aggressively representing themselves as affordable alternative healthcare advisors.
The lures in these spam campaigns include promises to explain health care reform, offers to compare your coverage against the non-existent plans they advertise, and promises of low cost and no exclusions based on pre-existing medical conditions. None of these claims or promises, of course, are legitimate. These sites will ask you to share your medical history, personal information, or social security number, or they may ask for enrollment fees.
According to Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4, scams of these kinds will increase and become more aggressive. Sjouwerman explains that “Tuesday October 1, 2013, marks the first stage of the new health care act. There is going to be an enormous amount of confusion about this law, starting with whether you even need to buy a new policy or not. The bad guys have already figured a dozen ways to scam people”, adding that, “It would not surprise me if completely fake health care exchange websites will be promoted in the coming days.”
My spamtrap shows Stu actually underestimated how quickly scammers would begin healthcare phishing. Several examples of scams of this kind, with these or similar Subject: lines, began appearing on the last days of September.
Healthcare plans for when MediCare Comes Up Short for You
Can you find affordable healthcare in 2013? Check your options.
Health Insurance Plans as Low as $99.00/ Month
Health Insurance is more affordable in 2013
The impersonation sites look very credible. Below and on the left is the official Healthcare.gov site; on the right, a scam site.
October is not only the beginning of ACA healthcare enrollment but also National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (#NCSAM on Twitter). Both Stu and I encourage you to remember to “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.” When you research or apply for healthcare. Tips to help you avoid falling prey to healthcare scammers:
- Visit https://www.healthcare.gov directly. You can verify the trustworthiness and legitimacy of the site by examining the SSL certificate.
- Be skeptical of any email that advertises or promotes “too good to be true” rates. Senior citizens should be particularly skeptical of such claims.
- Don't be fooled by the use of familiar medical terms (COBRA, Medicare) or familiar healthcare provider brand names on the pages.
- Use MyWOT or other reputation sites to check the link before you visit.
- Be skeptical of or investigate the sender address of emails promoting healthcare.
Sjouwerman warns us to "Look for coercive language in the message. Phrases like 'prevent a negative consequence' or 'you will be penalized if you fail to subscribe' are classic social engineering ploys".
When poking around one scam site I encountered a popup urging me to reconsider navigating away from the site. This is sure "tell" that the site is not to be trusted. Close your browser window immediately.
My colleague and friend recently wrote about his frustrating and time consuming visit to HealthCare.gov. This means trouble for you and a greenfield for scammers.
Frustration and impatience are exactly the reactions that scammers will attempt to exploit.
Please, again, remember to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.