President’s Day is a somber holiday that sees Americans celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln by browsing mattress sales. But this year was a little different.
President Biden rolled out a Special Enrollment Period for the Health Insurance Marketplace that runs from February 15, 2021 to May 15, 2021. While many Americans will jump at the opportunity to sign up for health insurance, the Federal Trade Commission warns that criminals could soon start sending a raft of phishing scams.
Identity thieves jump at any opportunity to steal personally identifiable information and money—from holidays to natural disasters—and the 2021 President’s Day has a little bit of everything for the discerning scammer.
Excitement about holiday sales emails? Check.
Fear due to a deadly pandemic? Check.
Questions about the Special Enrollment Period? Check.
Given many will be using Healthcare.gov for the first time over the next few weeks, this is a golden opportunity for scammers looking to fleece people who are already hurting.
Luckily, most identity theft is easily preventable when you take some basic precautions, like installing security software, updating all installed programs, and maintaining good online habits. But it’s easy to forget that not all phishing scams live in your inbox.
The FTC press release focuses on that third bucket by highlighting common phishing strategies that criminals use in emails, phone calls, and social media messages:
- No one from the government will call you about health insurance, or ask you to verify your Social Security number or financial information. People who do are scammers.
- People who offer legitimate help with the Health Insurance Marketplace — sometimes called Navigators or Assisters — are not allowed to charge you for their help. If someone asks you for payment, it’s a scam.
- People representing Affordable Care Act plans won’t contact you by phone, email, or in person unless you are already enrolled.
- If you’re planning to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, do it at HealthCare.gov. People who try to sign you up elsewhere just might be scamming you.
Finally, don’t forget the last step in phishing prevention: reporting suspected scams. Most consumer-focused scams can be reported at ReportFraud.FTC.gov, while tax-specific scams can be sent to the IRS email address, Phishing@IRS.gov.