by Eric Mullens
HUERFANO — Computer crime experts say cyber criminals, especially identity thieves, have been preparing for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so they can steal from you.
One of the single best ways you may protect your personal information is to remember you will NOT be contacted legitimately, regarding the ACA by either your email or by telephone.
For valid federal government information regarding sign-up, go to healthcare.gov and enter your state’s name. Healthcare.gov is the federal government’s official web site with information about health care reform.
Experts offer these tips to scam-proof yourself:
• Check out any site or representative if you are unsure. A legitimate web site or representative will never be insulted if you say you want to check out their web site and organization.
• Check the privacy settings if you use social media. Thieves are good at pulling information off sites such as Facebook. They may look up where you went to college, then call claiming to represent your alumni association with a special deal on health insurance just for graduates. If you’re confused, seek out more information. Health and Human Services has a 24-hour-a-day call center to answer questions at (800) 318-2596.
According to Fraud.org, Obamacare scams come in a variety of forms. Consumers across the country allege that scammers are contacting them by phone, fax, email and even in person. Some scammers claim to be government employees, tricking consumers into revealing their bank account numbers in order to sign up for fake health care plans. Others are asking for Social Security numbers in order for consumers to continue their eligibility for Medicare.
Certain fraudsters are intimidating consumers into disclosing information by claiming “it’s the law” or that “the government now requires it.” Some consumers are threatened with jail time if they do not purchase fake insurance cards. The only financial penalties associated with families and individuals that don’t obtain insurance doesn’t take effect until 2014 and contains no jail penalty.
The ACA created a Health Insurance Marketplace, also referred to as the Health Insurance Exchange. Here you can find health coverage that fits your budget and meets your needs.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to help you spot a health insurance fraud: 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 and report the incident to BBB’s Scam Stopper or the Federal Trade Commission.
Here are some of the most common scams the Federal Trade Commission has spotted so far.
• Charging for advice, the typical M.O.: Someone calls offering to help you enroll in the insurance exchanges for a fee or tells you that you need a new insurance card in order to avoid a penalty. But in reality the official helpers, the people trained and certified to help you understand your options and help you enroll in a plan, aren’t allowed to charge you anything. And there is no need for a special insurance card.
• Medicare cards: These scammers will typically tell you that “because of Obamacare” you need a new Medicare card to keep from losing coverage. They’ll often ask for your Social Security number and bank and credit card information. The Affordable Care Act does not require any new Medicare cards. The FTC advises that you never give your personal or financial information to someone who contacts you.
• Medical discount plans: Don’t want to get hit with a penalty for not having health insurance? Some con artists may offer to sell you a discount plan that they claim meets the law’s minimum coverage requirements. Remember, medical discount plans are not health insurance. Instead, they are usually membership in a “club” that claims to offer cheaper prices from certain doctors or pharmacies. The FTC warns that some of these plans are scams that don’t follow through on promised services, while others are attempts to get your personal or financial information.
• Government imposters: If a “government official” calls, emails or texts you to talk about health insurance and verify your Social Security number or bank information, the person is actually a scammer trying to get your personal information.
According to the FTC, the government will not call you about your health insurance and would never ask to verify personal information over the phone. If any email link goes to any site other than Healthcare.gov or the official State Insurance Marketplace (http://connectforhealthco.com) and indicates a person can enroll in Obamacare, the individual should not use the site.
A listing of valid websites for each state can be found on the Healthcare.gov website.
Author’s note: The following Federal and state government Affordable Care Act websites and help lines may be running slow due to volume usage or because of some glitches in various systems, but please remain patient and don’t use shortcuts that might compromise your personal information.
• the State of Colorado’s exchange:
www.connectforhealthco.com. or 1-855-752-6749 or
• the State of Colorado Employees Benefit Unit, firstname.lastname@example.org