‘Tis the season for scammers.

Plus: Recipes to bounce back from the Christmas cookies.

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Leo Buscaglia

Monday. Merry Christmas. Yes, we are here. Yes, this is a brand-new edition of the newsletter. We are just health nerds with too much to say, so why take a day off? So, what’s the perfect topic to read over the Yule log? Healthcare phone scams, of course. Let’s dive in.

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‘Tis The Season

Unfortunately, the holiday season isn’t just about festive cheer and gift exchanges. During this time of year, there’s another less joyous trend to be wary of: healthcare phone scams. According to recent data, there has been a surge in fraudulent calls offering fake health plans and Medicare support this season. Why now? Scammers are taking advantage of the open enrollment period for health insurance, which runs from November 1 through January 16.

Ugh—as if finding quality healthcare coverage wasn’t stressful enough. Now you have to worry about scammers trying to steal your personal information.

These scams are sophisticated and manipulative. You might receive a call from “Dale at Elite Medicare Options” or “Ashley from the Health Enrollment Center,” both examples documented by Hiya, a company specializing in tracking phone fraud and spam. The goal of these scammers is simple: to trick you into revealing personal information, such as your Medicare number, or to confirm your phone number is active, which can lead to more scam calls in the future.

Here’s how they typically operate: The scam call often presents itself as an automated message, inviting you to interact with a menu – possibly posing as a survey about Medicare coverage or an option to opt out of calls. Little do most people know that responding to these prompts can land you in trouble. According to Hiya, a ‘yes’ response can connect you to a live agent intent on extracting your personal information. On the other hand, saying ‘no’ or asking to be removed from the call list only confirms to the scammer that your phone number is valid.

Hiya’s insights come from a survey of over 100,000 “honeypot” lines—phone numbers not linked to real people and thus unlikely to receive legitimate calls. This data aligns with the Federal Trade Commission’s findings that healthcare scams surge during open-enrollment season. 

So, what’s the best thing you can do? Hang up immediately on suspicious calls, always request written benefits statements for any health plan, and never share personal details over the phone.

Interestingly, these healthcare scams follow a trend cycle. Some experts note that these scams peak when health coverage is on people’s minds, typically declining as the holiday season (and open enrollment) comes to an end. But, unfortunately, that does not mean you can let your guard down. As the New Year begins, tax-related phone scams often increase. Great—as if taxes weren’t stressful enough on their own. 

And the cherry on top of all this? Well, things are about to get even more complicated with AI bots starting to engage in phone conversations. These sophisticated bots can respond dynamically to what you say, making them harder to distinguish from real people. As AI technology advances, so do the methods of scammers, and it becomes that much more important to keep your head on a swivel. 

The key takeaway? While you are distracted thinking about your New Year’s Eve plans or all those gifts you have to return, make sure you are cautious when answering any suspicious phone calls. Be extra careful with unsolicited calls asking for personal information, especially healthcare-related ones. Remember, legitimate organizations won’t pressure you to provide sensitive details over the phone. 

So, stay vigilant, stay informed, and help keep your holidays scam-free. 

Tonic Shots

1. After All Those Christmas Cookies, Let’s Get Back On Track!

A Green Goddess salad has it all. It’s the perfect bounce-back meal after indulging on Christmas Day. Enjoy!

2. A Soup With Plenty Of Protein!

Nothing like. good, easy-to-make minestrone soup to stay warm and feel great.

3. A Great Snack Or NYE Appetizer!

Protein anyone? These Caprese meatballs are the best!

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