Fraudsters are out there trying to scam Americans, claiming they’re from the Department of Health & Human Services. This recent story from a woman in Philadelphia was typical: She told me that she had received a call from someone who claimed he was with HHS. The caller told her she had been awarded a $2,500 grant, and it was easy to get. All she had to do was send in a few hundred dollars for the application fee, and HHS would send her a check. Thankfully, she didn’t. Instead, she hung up and reported the call.
The success of crude scams like these may seem implausible, but given the frequency of phone calls we get, they also must work – at least occasionally. Fraudsters may be asking for money orders or just looking for personal data, like bank accounts. But don’t be fooled. HHS does not ask individuals for money; it definitely doesn’t dole out grant money in exchange for deposits or ask for your banking information.
Fraudulent calls can be confusing, but you can protect yourself. In addition to protecting your personal financial information, whenever someone contacts you about your health or health coverage, always ask questions and never sign anything that makes you concerned. Keep an eye out for these five red flags:
Someone calls to ask for a small fee to obtain a government grant.
The government does not use direct phone contact to solicit, review or make awards. All grant applications are free to fill out and must be submitted through a government website.
Click here for more information on grant-related scams. You can also report grant-related scam attempts to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477 and email@example.com.
Someone asks for money to enroll you in Marketplace or “Obamacare” health insurance.
You can get help with enrolling in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan for free. The Marketplace has a call center that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also find people or organizations near you that can help you enroll in person. Find out more here.
Scammers may also insist that you enroll through the Marketplace even though you have Medicare. Medicare beneficiaries do not need to buy coverage through the Marketplace. In fact, it’s against the lawfor someone who knows you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan.
Someone pressures you with visits, mail or email solicitations and phone calls insisting they work for the government.
Always ask for identification if someone visits you in person. Make sure you get his name, who he works for, his telephone number, address, email address and website.
If you apply for coverage, you may get a phone call from the Marketplace asking you to verify or provide more information so we can easily process your application. The representative should give you a first name and an agent ID number. Write those down, and if you don’t feel comfortable answering questions over the phone, ask the caller to mail you a letter with instructions for completing your application.
Someone you did not contact asks for your financial or health information.
No one from the government will call you or email you trying to sell you an insurance plan or ask for your financial information like a bank name and account number. Keep information like your credit card number, banking information or Social Security number private and protected. And a Marketplace representative will never need to ask about your personal health information like your medical history or specific treatments. (If you’re applying for certain Marketplace exemptions, you may be asked to provide medical documentation.)
Someone directs you to a website without official government seals, logos or website addresses.
The official website of the Marketplace is Healthcare.gov, and you can find all of the information you need there.
The official website to apply for or check the status of a grant application is Grants.gov.
At HHS, we’re working with our partners in the Administration to find and prosecute these criminals, but we need your help to prevent fraud before it strikes.
We need you and your family to keep a watchful eye. If you think someone is trying to steal your money or your identity, we need you to act so they can’t do the same to your friends or neighbors.
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The New Sjogren's Syndrome Handbook (Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation) by Daniel J. Wallace
The Sjogren's Syndrome Survival Guide by Terri P. Rumph Ph.D, and Katherine Morland Hammitt
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Information on this blog is not intended as medical advice. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking any medications, vitamins, or supplements; before beginning exercise programs, or making changes in your health care practices.