Any time a new, large-scale program, such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is unveiled, fraudsters and identity thieves may try to take advantage of consumers who may not be familiar with the specifics of the program. Of particular concern is the potential for fraudulent websites designed to obtain consumers’ personal information or steal their money.
Reports of suspicious websites, advertisements, telemarketing calls and door-to-door solicitations have turned up since the rollout. Therefore, to protect your personal information and your pocketbooks, keep in mind the following precautions when signing up for an ACA program:
Stop. Call. Confirm. Protect your social security number, health information and financial information. Before you give out any personal, health, or financial information STOP. CALL the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI). CONFIRM with OCI that the entity is legitimate. If someone discourages you from contacting OCI, or pressures you into giving up private information, you may be dealing with a fraudster. OCI’s contact information is:
Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance
Phone: (608) 266-3585, Madison;
(800) 236-8517, statewide;
Verify the legitimacy of websites you visit. Using search engines may lead you to fraudulent websites if you are not careful. A good practice is to type the name of the website you want into your browser window, rather than merely searching for information about the Affordable Care Act. The official, primary site is healthcare.gov. Other federal and state governmental websites provide links to legitimate sites relating to the ACA.
Keep good records. Keep a record of everyone who assists you, who they work for, and their telephone number, address, email address, and website.
Think before signing. Don’t sign anything you don’t fully understand.
Be suspicious. Are you being asked to transact business in an unusual way – for example by using money order, or by buying a money card? Stop, call and confirm. Also note, insurance discount cards are not the same as insurance.
Don’t give into high pressure tactics. Threats, limited time offers or misinformation about Medicare are “red flags.” You cannot go to jail for failing to enroll in the Affordable Care Act. The ACA’s enrollment period runs through March 31, 2014, therefore, you should not feel pressure to decide on a plan “today.” If you are on Medicare, you do not need to enroll in the ACA or reapply for Medicare.
If in doubt, check with the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI). OCI licenses anyone authorized to engage in the business of insurance in Wisconsin, and OCI can verify the legitimacy of anyone purporting to be trained to help enroll people in the Affordable Care Act. And, as always, if you suspect criminal activity, contact local law enforcement, or contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) at 800-422-7128. My office, in cooperation with the OCI and DATCP, is committed to prosecuting fraud and will work together protect Wisconsin consumers.