If you don't have health insurance, you must sign up or the government will fine you. That almost sounds like a scam --but it's true. Which makes it perfect FOR scammers! Consumer advocates fear con artists will use confusion over implementation of the Affordable Care Act to swoop in and either sign people up for fake or crummy healthcare policies or gather personal information they can use to steal their identities.
In fact, it's already happened. According to the National Consumers League, Massachusetts scammers set up bogus websites that purported to sell Obamacare policies, but were really a ruse to gain seniors' personal financial info. The NCL says crooks in Kansas and Alabama posed as government employees signing people up for health plans and got people to tell them their bank account numbers.
Already bad guys have tried versions of the scam via email, phone, fax and in person. And, of course, the fact that, by law, people ARE supposed to sign up, is a powerful hook. So here are several great self-protection tips provided by another consumer group, the Consumer Federation of America:
1. You probably don't have to do ANYTHING! If you already have health insurance through your employer, Medicare, Medicaid, your school, the Veteran's Administration, or some other program, you don't have to sign up for anything new.
2. Nobody legitimate will contact you about signing up. The government is not calling. Or sending emails. Or knocking on people's doors to sign them up for health insurance under the ACA.
3. You've got time. If you do not have health insurance and, therefore, do need to sign up for a plan, don't rush. You have until March 31, 2013 to buy insurance.
4. There is no application fee. If you are eligible to sign up through the exchanges, the only money you will have to spend is on your monthly insurance bill. If anyone wants to charge you for helping you sign up, it's a scam.
5. Report Suspicious Activity. Call the HeathCare.gov hotline, 1-800-318-2596 (TTY users can call 1-855- 889-4325) to report scams related to Obamacare.
Finally, if you are confused about the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare, here are several other resources that may be helpful to you:
•Healthcare.gov. This government page addresses possible scams related to the ACA.
•http://healthlawanswers.aarp.org. AARP's consumer information site.
•http://consumersunion.org/taxcredit/US_2014_EN.pdf Consumers Union Site about Obamacare tax credits.