If someone knocks on your door and says you need to buy an Affordable Health Care Card, don’t hesitate to say “no thanks” and shut the door, because you may be talking to a scammer, according to several government agencies.
Scammers posing as government or federal health insurance marketplace representatives ask for personal information during door-to-door campaigns, telephone calls and e-mail blasts. The government launched the marketplace earlier this month as part of the Affordable Care Act to allow consumers to compare and purchase health insurance plans online.
“During large-scale government roll-outs, scammers come out of the woodwork to take advantage of any confusion surrounding the program, luring people away from legitimate Web sites and posing as employees or agents of the agency,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says in a written statement. “Additionally, with many federal agencies closed [due to the government shutdown], help is even harder to find, so it’s necessary for those of us in state offices to fill this vacuum.”
The best way to avoid getting scammed? Don’t respond to any unsolicited calls, e-mails or personal visits about the health insurance marketplace. Representatives from the government or marketplace won’t call, visit your home or e-mail you to solicit enrollment, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Look out for these reported scams:
Phony Health care cards: One reported scam involves phony salespeople offering “Affordable health care cards,” which don’t exist, says Dan Tierney, a spokesman with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Criminals who target seniors may say they need these cards to replace their Medicare cards, or that they need new Medicare cards as part of the new federal law, which isn’t true, he says.
Scam E-mail: Scammers will send e-mails that appear to be from the government with links to Web sites requesting personal information, such as a social security number, Tierney says. Or, they may include links that install malware on your computer. Scammers use various scare tactics and sales pitches to get you to open their e-mails, says Jamie Barb, a spokeswoman with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. For example, some solicitation e-mails may tell consumers they’ll go to jail if they don’t purchase insurance, which isn’t true. “They’re using any tactic that they can to get buy into what they’re selling,” Barb says.
Bogus Web sites: Consumers should look out for bogus Web sites claiming to be part of the health insurance marketplace, Tierney says. These Web sites claim you can receive subsidies and purchase a policy after filling out an online form that’s designed to steal personal information. Consumers may stumble upon these bogus Web sites through Google searches or links from scammers’ e-mails. Health care shoppers should visit www.HealthCare.gov for legitimate information about the marketplace, or to enroll in a plan. Some states have their own Web sites, which consumers can access through the federal site. Additionally, consumers can call the program’s help center at (800) 318-2596 with questions or to enroll.
Fake navigators: Scammers will pose as official representatives, also called “navigators,” who are supposed to help you find and purchase an insurance plan, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, an anti-fraud alliance of consumer, government and insurance organizations. Under the health care law, the federal government trained and certified navigators to answer questions about the marketplace, discuss eligibility and options, and prepare applications to enroll in a plan through the marketplace. The coalition warns that scammers may call or go door-to-door with fake badges and identification, and engage in the following prohibited actions:
• Ask for financial information to take a payment. Navigators can’t take money or charge for their services.
• Use a laptop to show a bogus Web site that asks for sensitive information such as a social security or bank account number.
• Sell fake health insurance.
Official navigators won’t contact consumers about enrollment by calling, e-mailing or going door-to-door.
Consumers can find certified navigators by using the federal Web site www.HealthCare.gov or calling (800) 318-2596. Navigators speak with consumers over the phone or in person at locations specified through the marketplace.