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Don't Get Duped by Obamacare Scams

Date: October 25, 2013

Scam artists are targeting unsuspecting business owners and consumers in the healthcare-insurance marketplace.

Obamacare got off to a bumpy start, with the government's central insurance website unable to keep up with traffic. As the dust settles and IT teams work overtime, a new player is jumping into the game: the scam artist.

It's typical in times of change for "scam artists attempt to exploit confusion about the law," according to the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters. Mostly, this is about identity theft, efforts to illegally gain access to Tax ID, Employer ID, Social Security numbers, credit cards, bank accounts and other personal information.

Businesses are not immune. Just as individuals are turning to exchanges to purchase insurance, small business owners are also shopping around for the best policies, and they, too, are finding a dangerous landscape.

Here’s a look at some of the major healthcare-insurance scams:

Bogus exchange website

A site may show the state seal and look legit, even copying the format of the real state site, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. To shop the site, you’ll be asked for personal information, opening the door to identity theft.

The sign-up fee

In this increasingly common ploy, the pitchman will tell the business owner or consumer that a new “insurance card” is needed to participate in the exchanges. They’ll ask for identifying information and may even charge a fee. (These cards are entirely fictitious.)

Email pitches

For bulk scamming, nothing beats a mass email blast. Besides reeling in suckers en masse, the fraudulent email typically contains links that appear legitimate but instead guide the user to fake sites.

The phone pitch

Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so inbound calls are suspect. In all likelihood, the government isn’t going to call to sell you insurance. If someone does, that ought to raise a red flag.

As usual, the scammers are out ahead of the consumers. For business owners who need to buy legitimate insurance and don’t want to get trapped in someone’s bogus pitch, here are some tips:

  • The government is training “navigators” to guide people through the exchanges. Make sure your navigator is legit, says the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. They should not try to sign you up for specific health coverage (they must be neutral), and they can’t ask you for money.
     
  • Don’t give any identifying information to an inbound call or an unsolicited email. If you call an agency or visit a website to seek information, that’s one thing. But when they come to you, the chances of a scam greatly increase.
     
  • Don’t trust Caller ID. Scammers can get around Caller ID technology, forcing a phone to display names and numbers of fake organizations, notes the Better Business Bureau. Just because it looks like a state agency calling, don’t take that for granted.
     

The best defense is education. Read up on the rules and learn how the system works before you lead your business up the garden path. When in doubt, stick to the source. Obamacare information can be found at Healthcare.gov, or you can refer to NFIB’s list of healthcare exchanges by state. Make sure your employees know this, too, and that they take the same precautions you do in regard to unsolicited calls and emails.

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