During Medicare Open Enrollment, which started Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, there's usually an uptick in online spam pitching supplemental plans.
But this year, it's gone epidemic -- with a 10-fold increase compared to recent months in these always annoying and sometimes risky offers, reports messaging security firm Cloudmark.
The reason may go beyond just the calendar: It looks like spammers are exploiting confusion over the Affordable Care Act - and how it affects Medicare recipients.
In reality, it doesn't affect them at all concerning enrollment. If you're enrolled in Medicare, you're set - you're not required to purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. Medicare supplement plans, the theme of most spam messages, are optional - and not part of ACA exchanges. But spammers seem to be counting on you emerging from the blizzard of news about the ACA thinking it means you have to buy a new policy.
Spammers tend to be devoted news hounds - and bad headlines usually translate to good business for them. With every natural disaster, there's a tornado of emails for charity scams aiming to collect fraudulent donations or inviting you to click on disaster photo links that in fact load your device up with malware.
And yet this time around, the surprising thing is that Internet security watchdogs report very little spam that directly mentions the man-made disaster dominating the news: the launch of the HealthCare.gov website.
After tracking billions of messages, Sophos security advisor Chet Wisniewski tells TechNewsWorld that only "a couple hundred" messages mentioning that website, Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act have been found in its spam traps. Why? Spammers may be having a hard time figuring out how to make money directly from the launch woes. Wisniewski quips that "the spammers are probably spending their time trying to hack HealthCare.gov."
Better just to tap public confusion.
Some spam is merely annoying, pitching actual products that may or may not be a good deal for you -- and spammers make money every time you click on a spam message, and more if you actually buy a product. But other spam is outright criminal, seeking to steal your money or identity.
Whichever it is, you should think twice before clicking on spam or online ads touting "Medicare" plans.
Some recent subject lines from flagged spam include:
Medicare open enrollment For 2014 ends Dec 7 - Find a plan today..
Medicare Supplement Insurance information. Health coverage for seniors ...
Medicare Enrollment Must be Done Today (face fines for not choosing)
Medicare enrollment period for 2013. Compare plans before the deadline ...
Photo: Aaron Fulkerson/Flickr
Also of Interest
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