Identity theft scammers are having a field day out ahead of the start of new health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Back in the days when scammers were known as flimflam men (and women) they would often pose as government officials or workers to run one scam or another. Today, scammers have become much more sophisticated in trying to separate victims from their personal information, but many still pose as government workers.
Many states are getting ready to roll out the new insurance pools that are at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. These states will sign people up for the plans using enrollment counselors often going to the people's homes in person. As part of the sign up process they will, in fact, have to solicit personal information - as you would expect any agent trying to write a new health insurance policy.
Now there are reports that scammers, posing as government agents, are trying to steal people's Social Security numbers and other personal information in the guise of signing them up for the new insurance plans.
Typical of this new scam is the victim gets a call from someone claiming to be from the federal government or the state government. (Actually there have been cases when teams of scammers have gone door to door - like Census takers - to "sign people up"). The scammer tells the potential victim they have been selected as part of the first group to receive the new required insurance cards. However, the scammer claims that before the new card can be sent, information – such as bank account and social security numbers - must be "confirmed."
The truth, of course is there is no such card, and enrollment for insurance under the Affordable Care Act doesn't start until October 1st. But by giving out personal information, the victim is at risk for identity theft.
The AARP warning is direct and to the point:
It's scammers — once again — posing as federal employees, trying to get your personal and financial details for suspected identity theft. And this time, the card up their sleeve is one they promise is en route to you.
In recent weeks, consumers nationwide have been getting phone calls claiming they are among the first Americans selected to receive health insurance cards as part of the Affordable Care Act.
But before the cards can be mailed, the phony federal workers request personal data, including bank account numbers. Truth: There are no insurance cards associated with the Affordable Care Act.
Scammers often pose as government workers and take advantage of the confusion surrounding new or complex policies. Here are tips from the BBB for dealing with this type of scam.
- Hang up, don't press any buttons and don't call the scammer back. We all like to have the last word, but returning the phone call may just give the con artist information he can use.
- The government typically doesn't call text or email. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be very cautious of any unsolicited calls, text messages or emails you receive. Also, if the government is contacting you, they should already have your basic personal info, such as address and social security number.
- Don't trust caller ID. Scammers have technology that lets them display any number or organization name on your screen.
- Never give out personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, dates of birth or social security numbers to unfamiliar callers.
Two states - Florida and California - beginning in late September will start sending out "enrollment counselors" to sign people up for the new health care plans. Both have identity theft protection in their planning, and both are going to great lengths to supply those going out with tamper proof picture identifications and both states will start wide ranging advertising programs so people will know what identifications to ask to see.
Only time will tell if the sign up process they plan will shut fraudsters out and provide identity theft protection to those signing up.