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AG warns of scams linked to Obamacare rollout

10/17/2013, 3:59 p.m.
In the wake of the Oct. 1 rollout of the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ...

In the wake of the Oct. 1 rollout of the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, con artists are already scamming consumers with fake web sites and phone calls, according to the Virginia attorney general's office.

Consumers seeking insurance coverage through the online exchanges (also referred to as health insurance marketplaces) provide personal information to determine which plans are available to them and to sign up for coverage.

"... [B]ecause they have to enter such detailed personal information online, scammers are finding this a target-rich environment to confuse people and steal their information in the process," said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. "Scammers are sending out official-looking emails with links that don't go to the health insurance exchange, but to a bogus web site.

"While people think they're typing in detailed personal information to apply for health insurance, they're actually giving scammers all the information they need to commit identity theft."

The attorney general is warning Virginians about some of the possible ways scammers are attempting to commit fraud. He offers the following tips:

• Do not give personal information such as Medicare or Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card or debit card numbers, or your home address in response to unsolicited telephone calls.

• Only provide personal information if you initiate the contact. No one from the government will call, email, or text you to sell you an insurance plan or ask for personal information.

• Don't be swayed by high-pressure visits, mail solicitations, emails, texts, or phone calls from people pretending to work for the government. No one should threaten you with legal action if you do not sign up for a plan.

• Ask for credentials from anyone who wants to assist you in enrolling. In addition to your own licensed insurance agent, there are only two types of assistants who can help you sign up: Certified Application Counselors and Navigators. Certified Application Counselors are people who work for organizations such as hospitals and who have been certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Navigators are individuals or organizations trained to assist consumers in understanding their insurance options. The law forbids navigators from recommending specific health plans or coverage. Navigators are funded through state and federal grant programs, and must complete comprehensive training. There is no charge for their services. You may locate a navigator in Virginia by visiting www.HealthCare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

• Beware of anyone asking for money to enroll you in a health insurance exchange. If the individual is a legitimate health insurance assistant (a navigator or a certified application counselor), they will NEVER ask you for money. Your insurance agent can accept premium payments, however.

• Beware of anyone who tries to sell you an Obamacare insurance card. It may be a trick to get your money but not enroll you in a health insurance plan. You must actually apply for and enroll in a plan; you can't just buy an insurance card. Similarly, watch out for "fake" products such as prescription cards. They may look real, but may only be medical discount cards.

•Communicate directly with the official exchange when you are ready to purchase insurance. Unless you are using a licensed insurance agent, navigator, or a certified application counselor, the only way to sign up is to use the official web sites found by going to www.HealthCare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596. Avoid look-a-like web sites and look for web sites that have .gov on the end of the web site address.

If you are a Medicare beneficiary, you do not need to purchase insurance on the exchange.

If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, the Office of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection telephone counselors are available to assist you with your consumer questions. Please call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or 804-786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area. The Consumer Protection office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.