From fake emails designed to steal your information to Websites that sell you a bogus plan, it’s easy to fall victim to ObamaCare scams if you aren’t careful.
“The most susceptible and vulnerable sector of the population are the older people, and the older people right now are getting bombarded,” says Kevin Luss of financial planning company The Luss Group. “This whole healthcare reform launched a new area of online scams.”
The Affordable Care Act created uncertainty for scores of consumers who fear they won’t get coverage or face a fine if they don’t buy health insurance right now. That sense of urgency makes them vulnerable to the cons spreading on the Internet no matter that open enrollment lasts until February 15, 2015.
In a common scheme, you’ll get a phone call from a so-called “Navigator”, claiming to have the authority to help “navigate” the health exchange website for you. The caller guesses, most of the time rightly, that you started to sign up but haven’t finished and will offer to help you through the process. The catch: you have to turn over a lot of personal information that the scammer will then use for no good. “The main thing we try to tell people is to never give identifying information over the phone,” says Luss. “No reputable person ever asks you for your Social Security number or password or any other identifying information.” Even if your caller ID displays an official name don’t believe it. Scam artists can manipulate the name/number they are calling from.
Stealing your personal information is the way many make their living, and an easy way for them to do that is to trick you into clicking on a link. Katherine Hutt, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau, says consumers are getting official looking emails daily about open enrollment urging them to visit a website to sign up, update their information or purchase insurance. “It’s basically the same scam we saw last year,” says Hutt. “Open enrollment is in the news. They take advantage of that.” Since the government communicates through mail and already has your Social Security number, be leery of any unsolicited communications, advises the BBB.
Confusion over how long open enrollment lasts isn’t the only problem with the ACA. Where to buy insurance has many scratching their heads. In the majority of states you can purchase health insurance through the federal government’s website at HealthCare.gov, but if you live in some states you have to use the state website. There are also third parties that are authorized to sell ObamaCare approved plans including online marketplaces and insurance agents. “There’s so many websites out there, there’s so much information they are not sure what’s real and what’s not real,” says Tom Pegues, founder of GoodScout, an online health insurance marketplace.
The bad guys haven’t missed this and responded by launching fake websites for a host of nefarious activities. Theft being one of them. Luss has one client who lost $5,000 purchasing a bogus plan on the Internet. “She went on to the web to pay for a whole year up front and found this Website that looked real but was a fake,” says Luss. “There’s legions of fake websites that look like the particular state exchange wherever you are.”
Before offering up any information make sure the website is legit, says Pegues. That means if you are using a state exchange make sure it ends in .gov and if you are shopping in the private market the company’s physical address and phone number match and that the company is licensed to sell qualifying health plans. A search for any complaints is also necessary. “When someone approaches you be suspicious. Don’t trust your caller ID. Don’t click on links,” says Hutt. “If you need information go directly to the source at Healthcare.gov.”