Your Money: Beware of Affordable Care Act scams

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Consumers across the U.S. are reporting phone calls that claim to be from the government about new health insurance cards required by the Affordable Care Act.

This is the latest twist on the Medicare scam that the Better Business Bureau has seen for years. Fraudsters are trying to take advantage of those who are uncertain or confused by Obamacare, and the BBB predicts the scams will increase now that the October implementation date has arrived.

The scammers’ tools are typical, play upon the consumer’s fear and confusion. Here’s how this scam works. You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the federal government. The caller informs you that you’ve been selected as part of the initial group of Americans to receive insurance cards through the new Affordable Care Act. However, before the caller can mail your card they need to verify personal information, such as your bank account and Social Security numbers.

It’s a scam! There is no card, and enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace hasn’t even started yet. The BBB urges consumers to ignore these pitches and use the following precautions when dealing with this type of scam:

Be cautious with your identity. Never give personal information to someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether by phone, e-mail, social media or in person.

Hang up, don’t press any buttons and don’t call back. Returning the phone call may just give the con artist information he can use.

The government uses regular mail. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be cautious of calls, text messages or e-mails.

Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers have technology that lets them display any number or organization name on your screen.

Keep your personal information to yourself. Never give out personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, date of birth or Social Security numbers to unfamiliar callers.

If you’ve already given out your personal information:

• Call your bank and credit card companies to explain what happened. The sooner you contact them, the more likely that you will be reimbursed for any fraudulent charges on your accounts.

• Your bank and credit card companies will likely replace your debit and credit cards immediately.

• Monitor your bank account and credit card accounts carefully. It may be weeks or months before scammers attempt to use your information, so check it regularly.

• Contact one of the credit reporting services and ask them to put a Fraud Alert on your account. Ask them to notify the other two major credit reporting services, as well. A Fraud Alert stays on your credit report for 90 days and may make it harder to an identity thief to open new accounts in your name.

• Once you’ve place a Fraud Alert, you will be eligible for a free credit report. Review them carefully for any possible fraudulent activity.

• File an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint. Then bring your Identity Theft affidavit to the police and file a report with them, as well.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace, go to healthcare.gov .


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