The FTC has found that healthcare fraud has been on the rise lately, and will likely continue to increase until October. Let’s talk about how to spot the scams and avoid any problems when you’re ready to make the switch over to Obamacare.
The Obamacare Card Scam
One of the most popular healthcare scams that’s been circulating as October 1st approaches is known as the “Obamacare card.” It’s a technique used by fraudsters to steal consumers’ credit card information and social security numbers.
How does the Obamacare card scam work? Basically, victims get a phone call from someone claiming to represent the government. The caller informs them that they need this insurance card to be eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, or they may say the Obamacare card provides extra discounts. They ask for private personal information so they can send you the card.
But there’s no such thing as an Obamacare card — you’re just giving your info to scammers and identity thieves.
The health insurance marketplace goes into effect in October, and the FTC expects the number of related scams to rise in the meantime.
The Information Update Scam
Another popular scam involves fraudsters posing as Medicare officials. These fake Medicare representatives call consumers and say they’re updating or verifying personal information. The consumers are told that they might face some sort of consequence if they don’t comply.
“…impostors claiming to be from Medicare told consumers they needed to hand over their personal or financial information in order to continue eligibility because ‘change is on the horizon.’
But nothing in the Affordable Care Act threatens existing benefits or medicare Enrollees…”
In other words, you shouldn’t be getting any Medicare calls because of the Affordable Care Act. If you have concerns about your Medicare benefits, don’t respond to a cold-caller. Instead, contact your Medicare representatives directly.
Fake Coverage and Mandatory Payments Scams
If someone calls you out of the blue to sell “Obamacare insurance,” they may be a scammer.
Some of the most audacious scammers are even selling fake coverage. That’s right — if you’re not careful, you might accidentally buy healthcare coverage that doesn’t actually exist.
Other fraudsters are simply calling people and telling them they need to pay fees to have their Affordable Care Act healthcare benefits take effect. They may ask the victim to wire them money via Western Union or a prepaid card.
Some scammers will even tell their victims may go to jail if they don’t pay the fees. This is obviously completely bogus, and it’s a sad example of how scammers advantage of the widespread confusion and misinformation surrounding Obamacare.
Fake Navigators Scam
As part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, the government is sponsoring the training and certification of so-called “navigators” who will help consumers get their new healthcare set up. However, this program hasn’t started yet.
Some scammers are calling consumers, pretending to be navigators, and asking for service fees up front. Remember, the real navigators program hasn’t started yet operating yet — and when it does, it will be free to the public.
Know How to Protect Yourself
One reason these scammers are getting away with their dirty healthcare tricks is because many people don’t know much about the Affordable Care Act or what it really means.
By going online and educating yourself about the Affordable Care Act, you can spot the scams and protect yourself and your family. Check out HHS.gov/healthcare to learn about the Affordable Care Act, how it will affect your current health insurance, or what it will mean if you don’t currently have insurance.
Do you have any tips for dodging Obamacare scams? Let us know in the comments.
Sean Boulger is a freelance writer and storytelling enthusiast living in LA. An earlier version of this post originally appeared on July 12, 2013 in the Scambook blog. Scambook is an online complaint resolution platform dedicated to helping people avoid scams and fraud, with over $10 million in resolved consumer damages.