Beware phone scams over health insurance
Image Source: Flickr User Victor Bezrukov
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare has helped many get insurance but it has also spawned a legion of scams. The open enrollment period has just closed except for those few states that have offered an extension. So now is prime time for scammers looking to cash in – here’s what to watch out for so you don’t end up the victim of insurance fraud in today's consumer scam alert.
Health insurance marketplace calls
You may have received robocalls from companies claiming to be with your state’s health insurance marketplace and have simply hung up on the automated call. But for those who stick around to listen to this scam-starter, they may be in for a nasty surprise. The scammers use a caller ID spoofer, so it looks like it’s a local call, but it may be from international fraud networks.
The message makes it seem urgent that you speak to a representative and threatens you with a fine if you don’t have health coverage. You may panic and take the call even if you have coverage because you may think some registry has you on a list of non-covered offenders. You will be asked to stay on the line or press a number to speak to a representative.
When you get a human on the line, they may tell you they are calling from the government, from a state agency, the IRS, or other official entity. They then ask you for information that can be used for identity theft including your full name, address, date of birth, social security number and income information – among other details.
How to avoid being the victim of insurance marketplace fraud
First, you should know that the marketplace or legitimate insurers will typically not cold call you. Just because the caller ID seems legitimate, you cannot trust it. That’s shockingly easy to spoof – anyone can do it. Second, you should never give your personal information to anyone over the phone – no matter who they say they are or what company they’re with – don’t hand out your info.
Third, be aware that government agencies communicate by letter, not phone. The IRS will not call you - no government agency will call you and ask for cash to get rid of a warrant, or to avoid a fine or fee. These are all fraud examples you should not fall for – the government sends letters. They are old fashioned and like to have a paper trail of communication.
If you get a recorded call, don’t even press the number they give (if they give one) to be taken off their list. This can lead to more interaction with a human where they try to con you into giving out information. Just hang up on these calls and if they continue to call, don’t answer. You can also report the calls to the FTC or the North Carolina Department of Justice. www(dot)ncdoj(dot)gov.
Don’t panic over ACA fines
Even if you haven’t purchased insurance as the ACA requires, there’s no reason to panic and fall for a scam. There is a roster of exceptions to the rule. If you can’t afford it, you can get a hardship exemption. If you had just a small gap in coverage, there could be an exception. There are many outs to the coverage law. And for some people, paying the fine may be more affordable if they are young and healthy.
The bottom line is that you should not give in to a scam because you’re worried about compliance with the ACA. No one will come and arrest you if you don’t have health insurance. So feel free to ignore the calls to ensure that you don’t fall prey to one of these scams.
These consumer alerts are a courtesy of the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt. We help North Carolina consumers that are struggling with overwhelming debt and looking for a fresh start. Call us at +1-919-646-2654 for a free North Carolina bankruptcy consultation at one of our convenient locations in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Wilson, Greensboro, Garner or Wilmington.