With the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) now in action, more consumers than ever have access to affordable healthcare.
However, this significant change in American healthcare policy doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing for consumers. People are confused about the new law. When there’s confusion, you can bet the scammers are there to seize the opportunity. Fraud and identity theft are the big scams to watch out for.
To help you avoid being the next victim, we’re here with the most common Obamacare scams out there. Let’s check out a few ways to spot these scams and what you can do to protect yourself.
Scam #1. Fake “Obamacare Cards” or Insurance Cards
One of the more common Affordable Health Care act scams threatening consumers is the fake “Obamacare card” scam. It’s a scheme used by fraudsters to steal credit card information or Social Security numbers.
What happens is an unsuspecting consumer receives a call from someone claiming to be from the government. They’re told that in order to be eligible for the Affordable Care Act, they must buy an “Obamacare card”. They also may be told that the card provides additional benefits and discounts.
To apply for the card, says the scammer, victims must hand over their personal information like their Social Security number or credit card information.
Potential victims may also be instructed to pay via Western Union or prepaid cards.
Of course, there is no such thing as an Obamacare card nor are there insurance cards that provide additional medical discounts.
Scam #2. Information Update Scam
Another popular scam is the fraudulent “information update.” This scam fools consumers into giving out their personal information. Like the previous scheme, potential victims receive a call from someone claiming to be a Medicare official. They’re asked to update or verify their personal information or else there will be consequences.
Note that nothing in the Affordable Care Act changes existing benefits for Medicare enrollees. These fraudsters are simply trying to commit identity theft. Remember, a real government official or entity won’t call you out of the blue to ask for sensitive information like your social security number.
Scam #3. Fake Navigator Scam
To help bring consumers up to speed with the new law, the government is sponsoring and training “healthcare navigators.” It’s intended to help consumers purchase insurance. But as expected, scammers are posing as healthcare navigators to rip you off.
In this scam, you may receive a call or be duped into believing that the scammer is legitimate, when they’re really after your money or personal information. Don’t give any information out to any cold-calling “healthcare navigators” or anyone who may approach you on the street. And if you’re seeking help from a navigator who works with a specific organization, research that organization before you share any personal information.
Scam #4. Fake Coverage and Mandatory Payment Scam
Other scammers are selling medical coverage that simply doesn’t even exist, and the potential victim might be convinced that their medical coverage won’t go into effect until they pay certain fees. Victims are told to pay a “mandatory fee” via Western Union or prepaid card — both of which are untraceable forms of payment.
There are no mandatory fees that one must pay before receiving medical coverage. If you receive a call like this, do not wire money or pay via prepaid card. It’s simply another scam that preys on the public’s confusion.
Scam #5. Fake Health Exchange Website
Since most will buy their new medical coverage online, replicas of legitimate websites have sprung up. For example, there’s a legitimate website called “Covered California” but authorities have also warned the public about website called “California Covered” run by fraudsters that may have infected users’ computers with malware or other phishing software designed to steal personal information.
These sites are designed to pull the wool over your unsuspecting eye by looking like the real thing, so remember to verify the legitimacy of any health exchange site before you sign up. When in doubt, open a brand new browser window and type in www.healthcare.gov directly.
Get the Facts to Protect Yourself
The best way to protect yourself against Affordable Care Act scams is to learn about the new healthcare legislation and understand how your medical coverage may be changing. This will help you distinguish the red flags from the real facts.
Remember to take your time, too. While the health exchanges are underway, you still have until March 31, 2014 to enroll, so don’t be pressured to act now or miss out. Anyone who insists you need to enroll immediately, without taking the time to research your options, may be a scammer.
In the meantime, check out our video on Obamacare Health Scams on Scambook TV!