On the Lookout for Fraud With New Health Insurance Exchanges

With all the confusion over how to take advantage of the health insurance exchanges, there are unfortunately some who are also trying to take advantage of the confusion. Authorities are preparing for a wave of health care fraud, as private interest groups, companies and fraudsters are ready to take advantage of individuals who may accidentally divulge personal information in the hopes of obtaining health insurance.

Groups in several states throughout the U.S. that have already been uncovered that are taking advantage of uneducated consumers. In Idaho, some of these groups are presenting themselves as working for the state’s health insurance exchange and are collecting personal information from consumers in order to exploit them financially. In Maryland, scam artists have started calling residents claiming they need to verify their Medicare ID and Social Security numbers for purposes associated with the health law, according to reports published by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

In New York and Florida, fraudsters have been traveling door-to-door, asking whether individuals currently have health insurance. If not, some individuals have reportedly been threatened with prison time if they do not sign up for coverage on the spot, according to the coalition.

Some fraudsters are setting up websites meant to look like the state websites. The schemes target uninsured individuals and employers by creating websites such as washingtonhealthexchange.com and mdhealthexchange.com, which have already been reported and taken down. Washington Healthplanfinder is the name of Washington state’s online insurance exchange. But a private insurance agency is using the domain name “washingtonhealthplanfinder.org” to sign people up for policies. For now, it’s up to the consumers to be educated and beware.

This is because many states do not yet have plans for investigating complaints, meaning an even more difficult time for consumers. If something looks off, consumers should notify their state insurance departments for help. Kaiser Health News reports that close to ten percent of medical identity theft occurs because consumers provide their personal health information, such as blood type or medical history, to a fake or “spoofed” website, according to Bill Barr, development coordinator for the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance. Scammers can take this information, pair it with a false license number, and sell your identity on the black market, Barr said. It is often difficult to tell which websites are fake, he added.

Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers, suggests some preventive measures so that consumers can better protect themselves from Obamacare scams:

  1. Get informed about how the health reform affects you. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s HealthCare.gov Web site is a great place to start.
  2. If someone claiming to be with Obamacare or another federal program asks you to wire money, give out your bank account number or load funds onto a prepaid card, it’s a scam.
  3. If you received an unsolicited phone call, email or fax claiming that you need to purchase a new Medicare card or update your personal information (such as your Social Security number, date of birth or other sensitive information) because “it’s the law,” simply hang up and report the event to Fraud.org or the FTC.
  4. Be careful of phishing sites made to look like official insurance exchange Web sites. They may contain the actual seal of the real insurance exchanges, but likely simply exist to load malware onto your computer or collect your personal information.
  5. In the event that you inadvertently divulge personal information to an Obamacare fraudster, inform your banks, credit card providers and the three major credit bureaus so that they can be on the lookout for potential identity thieves.