Watch out! A flood of scammers are exploiting the national state of confusion over the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare - to steal your credit card, Social Security, and bank account numbers.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers need to just hang up on telemarketers claiming to be "from the government" offering "Obamacare cards," and even threatening jail time for people who do not buy health insurance.
The scammer's call might go like this:
"Good morning. I'm calling from the government. We're about to send out national Obamacare medical cards for the new Affordable Care Act. You're one of the lucky people to get yours first, so I just need to confirm your name, address and phone number. Oh, and your bank account number, too..."
With the information these telephonic goons are trying to get out of you, they can: charge your existing credit cards, steal from your checking account, open new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, write fraudulent checks, or take out loans in your name.
As the FTC warns, "The government and legitimate organizations you do business with already have the information they need and will not ask you for it." No agency of the federal government makes unsolicited phone calls or sends unsolicited email to citizens.
In a related scam targeting Medicare enrollees, scammers claiming to be "from Medicare" tell consumers that Obamacare requires them to report their personal financial information in order to keep getting benefits. They may even claim that Obamacare is replacing Medicare, which of course, is not true.
The truth is that the Affordable Care Act does not affect the benefits of current Medicare enrollees.
And It Will Only Get Worse
The FTC expects the volume of Obamacare-related scams to grow even larger with the approach of the October 1, 2013 deadline for the opening of the state insurance exchanges required by the Affordable Care Act.
To help uninsured Americans buy insurance from the exchanges, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will employ "navigators" trained to explain coverage options and help consumers get the most affordable policy that will meet their specific health care needs.
The Obama administration has made $54 million in grants available for organizing and training the navigator, who must be trained and certified before being allowed to assist consumers.
However, Lois Greisman, associate director of the FTC's division of marketing practices told the Washington Post, "What we're very likely to see is (fake navigators saying), 'For an upfront fee we can help you,' but there shouldn't be an upfront fee, it should be free."
Greisman told the newspaper the FTC would advise consumers on how tell real navigators from scammers as soon as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized certification standards for navigators.