Today marks the start of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). As with any new, massive, government-sponsored program, scammers and identity thieves will try to take advantage of the public’s confusion and unfamiliarity with the new Health Exchanges (which we’re calling Obamacare Identity Theft).
Fortunately, Obamacare identity theft and the resulting fraud are similar (and therefore manageable) to the daily dangers you face clicking on potentially malicious links, giving out personal information to strangers or visiting a doctor’s office and providing medical history. You already practice many of these skills, you just need to apply them to Obamacare ID theft. To combat the problem, you must Know the Facts, Recognize the Scams and Implement the 7 Prevention Tools.
1. Know the facts about Obamacare implementation:
- Effective January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act requires all eligible individuals, including children, to have health insurance. Failure to be insured can trigger a penalty fee of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child in 2014.
- On October 1, 2013, open enrollment begins for Americans to apply for health insurance benefits through the “Health Insurance Marketplace” (or “Exchange”), which will be centrally managed at Healthcare.gov.
- To aid in this process, Obamacare built in an army of “Navigators” and “Assisters” to get the message out and assist those (in person and virtually) who need to enroll.
- Most states have refused to pay adequately for “education and enrollment” training for the Navigators, so the Obama administration created a program of Assisters who are paid with federal funds to fill in the gaps.
Due to individual states’ lack of training for Navigators and failure to conduct background checks on those tasked with assisting, there is a very real and imminent threat of identity thieves exploiting the vast quantities of personal information that will be in play. It is important that you know the most common Obamacare identity theft scams.
2. Recognize Obamacare ID Theft Scams:
- POSERS: Since Navigators and Assisters were issued neither badges nor identification to prove that they are legitimate, it will be easy for scam artists to pose as certified Affordable Care Act assistants and to use their “authority” to gather your personal information. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services is not requiring Navigators and Assisters to go through fingerprinting or background checks even though the workers will be collecting such confidential information as Social Security numbers, birthdates, home addresses and email addresses. This opens the door for convicted felons (even those formerly convicted of identity theft) to apply for jobs as Navigators. As of now, the HHS will not maintain a list of Navigators’/Assisters’ names on its website, so there is no way for consumers to verify whether they are legitimate. Some states have imposed stricter rules on Navigators, including licensing requirements and background checks.
- COPYCAT WEBSITES: Because they are brand new, most Americans have no idea what the Federal or State Healthcare Exchange websites look like, or how they operate. This lack of familiarity makes it very easy for organized criminals to create malicious websites that look legitimate, but aren’t. Their only purpose is to collect your personally identifying information and exploit it. Just like in traditional phishing and pharming scams, fraudsters will lure you to data hijacking websites with enticing or threatening offers (or links) in emails, social media posts, texts, phone calls and even in-person visits.
Recognizing these scams isn’t enough. Take targeted action to prevent identity theft as a result of Health Exchanges and Obamacare.
3. Inoculate Yourself Against Obamacare Identity Theft (View Video for Specifics)
- Avoid clicking on “impostor” links for copycat websites. Instead,
- Initiate contact with your state’s health exchange, searchable at healthcare.gov.
- Be wary of door-to-door Navigators/Assisters asking for your information. Instead,
- Apply online or in person and only through the state sanctioned providers or brokers.
- Ignore manipulative attempts to scare you with prison time or fines if you don’t enroll.
- Consider freezing your credit in case your SSN falls into the wrong hands.
- Remember, if you already have insurance or are covered by Medicare, you need not apply.
These threats and scams are really no different than the risks posed by Medical Identity Theft or financial fraud, except that they are now under the guise of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. To make sure you keep your healthcare costs affordable and your identity protected, you must be willing to act.
John Sileo is a keynote speaker on identity theft, cyber security, online privacy and internet reputation. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which helps organizations to protect the privacy that drives their profitability. Recent engagements include presentations at The Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security and Northrop Grumman as well as media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.