Health reform is changing millions of people’s lives, and how we shop for health coverage. But watch out ... Health reform may attract scammers like poison ivy. They’ll try to exploit the complex changes at your expense. Especially, thieves will prowl to steal your financial and medical identities.
Get informed about health reform. The more you know, the safer you'll be.
Fake navigators. They pretend they’re official navigators helping you find coverage. They may knock on your door, or cold-call via telephone. They also forge official-looking badges and other ID. Among the potential navigator ruses:
- Charge an illegal “signup fee” and ask for your credit card and banking numbers. Navigators aren’t allowed to take money or charge.
- Show you fake online insurance applications or a bogus online signup portal on their laptop. The portal may request your sensitive financial information to “sign you up for the exchange.”
- Sell fake insurance. You’re left with large medical expenses when the worthless policy refuses to pay the bills.
Phony exchange websites. Bogus sites might look real — you’ll see the state seal, the word “Exchange” and your state name prominently on the homepage. Thieves also might copycat a real exchange site.
Email pitches. Spam emails arrive, supposedly from your exchange. But they could be rigged. You open the link and it takes you to a fake exchange or other “official” signup engine that requests your sensitive financial information. Opening the link also might install malware on your computer.
Seniors. Cheaters lie that the federal government needs to provide them a new Medicare card as “required” by the Affordable Care Act. The fake federal employee just needs to “verify” the senior’s bank account, credit card and SSN. Another version: The scammer wants to sign up the senior for “Obamacare” insurance.
- The big lie: The ACA doesn’t require new Medicare cards. Medicare doesn’t call seniors. And seniors with Medicare already have insurance. So they don’t need to seek coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace.
- Contact your nearest Medicare Patrol to learn about “Obamacare” scams, and report them.
- Stay informed about healthcare reform. It’s your best defense. AARP has a wide variety of helpful info for seniors.
Obamacare signup cons. Crooks knocked on doors and cold-called during the runup to the October 2013 open enrollment. They lied that they were federal employees sent to sign consumers up for a “required national Obamacare health card.” They demanded a “signup fee” and sensitive financial information to properly “register” some consumers were threatened with jail. Look out for new versions of this scam.
- Listen to your exchange’s consumer outreach messages. Know what navigators can and can’t do, and what their credentials look like.
- Know the warning signs of a false navigator. Make no transactions if you see signs such as:
– Tries to sign you up for specific health coverage (They must be neutral);
– Charges a “signup fee” (Navigators can’t charge);
– Seems evasive, pushy or ill-informed;
– Tries to obtain more info than needed to help you buy coverage (like your credit card and bank-account numbers); and
– Credentials: Different from legitimate credentials; amateurish; no credentials.
- Know your exchange website and how signup works. You can find your exchange site at www.healthcare.gov.
– Red flag: The fake exchange website has little consumer info and seems mainly geared to take your financial information;
- Learn if your exchange sends consumer emails, what they look like, and what info they typically contain. Never open unfamiliar “exchange” emails or open links in a suspicious message.
- Report suspicious activity. Contact the federal tollfree hotline: 1-800-318-2596 ... your state insurance department ... and the Federal Trade Commission.
- Act fast if your identity is stolen. Report it to your law enforcement, the three credit bureaus and your state insurance department.
- Examine your EOBs. Review the explanation of benefits form sent by your health insurer. If it lists treatments you never received, immediately notify your insurer and medical providers.
www.healthcare.gov (the federal health-reform website)— Federal Trade Commission— National Association of Insurance Commissioners — Kaiser Family Foundation— AARP— Families USA