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How to Recognize a Robocall

Listen for these key phrases related to insurance, jury duty and Social Security

Unwanted phone calls - phone scam concept

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Health Insurance Scam

What they’ll say: “Open enrollment has passed, but luckily that doesn’t mean you’ll be without coverage this year. New laws in place still allow you to get an affordable health insurance plan from an A-rated insurer at a price that you and your family can afford. Press 1 now to speak to an agent.”

The goal: Often this is a lead-generation operation (to get private information they can sell to others or use later). Some of these calls will legitimately connect you to a local insurance agent; others are pure scams.

Use good sense: Do not respond to inquiries like this over the phone. Instead, if you’re looking for lower-cost health insurance, your best option is to contact the State Health Insurance Assistance Program in your state. (Find it at The counseling is free. If you are under age 65 and not yet eligible for Medicare, go to for options on the individual market.

Jury Duty Scam

What they’ll say: “Hello, this is Officer Garrison from the police department. It is my duty to inform you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest as a result of your failure to show up for jury duty. Please call us immediately to avoid incarceration.”

The goal: To persuade you to pay a large “fine” to the crooks posing as police.

Use good sense: The legal system doesn’t work this way. You would get a notice of jury duty in the mail. Police and court officials don’t solicit payments by phone. If you are concerned, contact your county clerk’s office about jury duty.

The SSA warns you to beware of phone calls from phony SSA employees

Social Security Scam

What they’ll say: “The purpose of this call is regarding an enforcement action executed by the U.S. Treasury against your Social Security number. Ignoring this would be an intentional attempt to avoid initial appearances before the magistrate judge for a federal criminal offense. So before this matter goes to the federal claims courthouse or you get arrested, kindly call us back.”

The goal: To convince you that someone is using your Social Security card to commit crimes and that, to clear your name, you need to share private information.

Use good sense: The Social Security Administration won’t ask for such information over the phone. If you’re in doubt, look up the number for your SSA office and call it. Do not call the number in the phone message.

Pain Center Scam

What they’ll say: “This is an important message from the pain center. You’re receiving this call because someone at this number recently requested information about a pain-relieving brace for their back or knee. You may qualify for a knee or a back brace at little to no cost to you. To speak with a product specialist, press 1 now.”

The goal: This is often a Medicare fraud. More often than not, you will receive a low-quality brace — and the scammer will bill the government a huge amount for it.

Use good sense: Quality medical products generally are not sold over the phone. Don’t give your personal information to someone you don’t trust.

Doug Shadel is the state director for AARP Washington and the author of Outsmarting the Scam Artists.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.