Health care shoppers, beware of scams

It's open enrollment season for those shopping for new health insurance plans, and that makes it open season for scams.

Whether you're shopping on a government exchange for a plan under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), getting Medicare or looking for private insurance, crooks know health insurance is front of mind for many consumers, and they'll be aiming to get your attention, and money, the Federal Trade Commission warned on Monday.

The FTC dispensed tips for those in each group to help ensure that seeking information and deals related to health insurance won't lead you down a dangerous path with a scam artist.

For those using ACA marketplaces, the FTC said the place to get the job done is HealthCare.gov. There you'll find both information and the ability to shop for insurance. Do not, the FTC warns, fall for phone calls that pretend to be from the government selling insurance, noting "the government will not call to sell you health insurance."

Scammers have even more angles to work when it comes to those who are eligible for Medicare. Among them are door-to-door visits from someone pretending to be an "official Medicare agent." There's no such thing, the FTC warns. They just want to steal from you.

The same is true if you get a call about being required to have a so-called Part D prescription, or risk losing your Medicare coverage. The FTC said that's not true. The agency warns that you shouldn't give personal information over the phone. You can find help on Medicare issues at Medicare.gov.

When it comes to private insurance plans, the FTC urged consumers to be wary of offers that are really discount plans and not insurance. The agency recommends contacting your state insurance commissioner's office if you have a question about whether a plan being offered is really health insurance.

  • Mitch Lipka On Twitter» On Facebook» On Google+»

    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.