The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 24, 2013

BBB warns residents about ‘Obamacare’ phone scam


— Consumers across the United States are receiving telephone calls in which the caller claims to be a government official with news about new health insurance cards required by the Affordable Care Act.

It is a scam.

The Better Business Bureau is warning that the scam is growing as the Oct. 1 implementation date for the Health Insurance Marketplace approaches.

“Con artists are taking advantage of people’s confusion about what exactly the Affordable Care Act means for them,” said Carrie Hurt, president and chief executive officer of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Scammers’ favorite tools are confusion and fear. This is the latest twist on the ‘Medicare scam’ that BBB has seen for years. Whenever there is a new government program or new public policy, fraudsters will take advantage of people. The simple fact is there is no Affordable Care card. It’s a scam.”

BBB has issued several scam alerts warning consumers about scams related to the ACA, but is stepping up efforts as the implementation date approaches.

Here’s how the scam works. You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the federal government. The caller informs you that you’ve been selected as part of the initial group of Americans to receive insurance cards through the new Affordable Care Act. However, before the caller can mail your card, they need to verify personal information, such as your bank account and Social Security numbers.

BBB urges consumers to ignore these pitches and take these steps when dealing with this type of scam:

• Be cautious with your identity. Never give personal information to someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether by phone, email, social media or in person;

• Hang up, don’t press any buttons and don’t call back. Returning the telephone call may just give the con artist information he can use;

• The government uses regular mail. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be cautious of calls, text messages or emails;

• Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers have technology that lets them display any number or organization name on your screen;

• Keep your personal information to yourself. Never release personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and date of birth or Social Security number to unfamiliar callers.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace, go online to https://www.healthcare.gov.  For more tips you can trust, go online to http://www.bbb.org/.