With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly labeled “Obamacare,” on the horizon, scammers are finding it to be the latest opportunity to steal people’s identities.
"Any time you roll out a big government program like this, confusion is inevitable," said Lois Greisman, an associate director in the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. "This confusion creates a tremendous opportunity for the fraudster."
There is only one place to shop for a qualified health plan: HealthCare.gov, the site run by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. You also want to start your search here if you live in one of the places (17 states, District of Columbia, Guam or American Samoa), that set up its own exchange. Customer service representatives are available at 1 (800) 318-2596.
The following tips will help you spot a fraud:
—There is no card associated with health care reform.
—There is no new Medicare card, and you do not have to update any personal information.
—The Health Insurance Marketplace (those exchanges) doesn't open until Oct. 1, so you can't buy coverage under the Affordable Care Act until then.
—Don't respond to a cold call of any kind, especially one that asks for personal information or money. And don't trust caller ID, which can be rigged to make it look as if the call is coming from a government office.
—Don't let anyone rush you. The rates in the exchange have been preapproved and won't change during the initial enrollment period, Oct. 1 to March 31. Anyone promising a "special price" or "limited time offer" or who tells you "spots are limited" is lying.
And just a little more information regarding those “phone” calls:
• Hang up the phone. If you get one of these calls, just hang up. You may be tempted to call back, but this will only give the scammer another opportunity to steal your information. Also, be sure not to press any buttons that the scammer instructs.
• Never give out personal information. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or social security number.
• Don’t rely on caller ID. Some scammers are able to display a company’s name or phone number on the caller ID screen. Don’t trust that the information you see is true.
• The government rarely communicates via phone calls. Most of the time, the government uses traditional snail mail to communicate to consumers. The government rarely calls, emails or texts, so don’t give your information to these types of government messages.