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As enrollment for “Obamacare” begins in less than two weeks, scammers are swarming around consumers hoping to take advantage of growing confusion over the new health care bill.
The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia warns consumers to be alert to scammers pretending to be government officials who use enrollment into Obamacare to steal consumers’ identities.
As enrollment in the Affordable Care Act begins Oct. 1, many Americans are still confused on what their options are, creating a perfect storm for scammers and identity thieves, the BBB said.
According to Fraud.org, scammers may use different strategies.
Consumers report being contacted by phone, mail, and email. Some have been approached by scammers in person.
Scammers claim to be government officials, and ask for bank account numbers in order to sign up for fake health care plans.
Scammers request Social Security numbers in order to “continue eligibility for Medicare.”
Scammers attempt to intimidate consumers by claiming “it’s the law” or that “this is now required by the government.”
Other threats include jail time if the consumer doesn’t agree to the plan.
“Consumers need to remember that the government rarely calls individuals, and will never call to sign them up for a health care plan,” said Julie Wheeler of the Better Business Bureau.
“The penalties for not having insurance coverage do not go into effect until 2014, and do not include any form of jail time. If you get this type of phone call, hang up the phone immediately.”
The Affordable Care Act has created a health insurance marketplace, also referred to as the health insurance exchange, where consumers can search for health coverage options that fit their budget and health needs.
More information on the marketplace can be found at HealthCare.gov. Until Oct. 1, no one can sell insurance through an exchange.
Avoid becoming a victim of a health insurance fraud with the following BBB tips:
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. Be sure not to press any buttons that the scammer instructs, and report the incident to the BBB or the Federal Trade Commission.
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.
Get informed. Find out how the health care reform affects you. Visit the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s HealthCare.gov.
Get help. In the event that you give your personal information to an Obamacare fraudster, inform your banks, credit card providers and the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax so that they can be on the lookout for potential identity thieves.
For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, see www.bbb.org.