Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in March 2010, unscrupulous scammers have been creating ways to take advantage of consumers’ uncertainty surrounding the law. Posing as insurance agents or representatives of the federal government, when they are not, these scam artists try to sell fraudulent policies or obtain sensitive personal information. The Commerce Department in partnership with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and other state insurance regulators are reminding consumers about common red flags and providing tips on how to avoid being the victim of a scam.
“We will act swiftly on behalf of consumers to stop fraud and abuse,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Knowledge is the best defense against scams and fraud – I urge all consumers to take steps to protect themselves.”
One of the largest components of the ACA is the creation of new health insurance marketplaces, (or exchanges) – like Minnesota’s state-based marketplace, MNsure.
Open enrollment in MNsure begins October 1. However, nationally, bogus websites that purport to be part of the exchanges have been appearing online for more than a year. MNsure’s official website is www.mnsure.org. Do not enter any personal or financial information into a website that says you can purchase a policy before the open enrollment period.
The Commerce Department has received updates from other states that have experienced this common ploy, which involves unsolicited calls from scammers who claim to have your new “Obamacare” insurance card – and all they need is to get a little information from you before they can send it to you. The caller may ask for credit card numbers, bank account information or your Social Security number.
One variation of this trick specifically targets seniors on Medicare. In this scam, the caller claims that in order for them to get their new Medicare card and continue receiving their benefits; they must verify their bank account and routing numbers. Some callers ask for their Medicare numbers, which are identical to Social Security numbers.
You are not required to obtain a new Medicare card under the ACA. Also, anyone who is a legitimate representative will not solicit, or call you, to ask for personal and financial information. Beware of solicitation calls and never give your personal information to a solicitor from an unknown source.
Here are some other important “red flag” warning signs to watch out for:
·The salesperson says the premium offer is only good for a limited time.
Be skeptical of someone who is trying to pressure you into buying a policy because the rate is only good for a short time. In fact, enrollment in the exchanges will be open from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014 and rates for plans in MNsure will have been approved for the entire enrollment period.
Remember: if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
· Be careful if you receive an unsolicited phone call or email from someone trying to sell insurance.
The federal government and new state marketplaces like MNsure will not be directly contacting individual consumers to sell them insurance.
The best way to protect yourself from insurance fraud is to know or research the agent and company you’re considering. Always STOP before writing a check, signing a contract or giving out personal information. CALL the Commerce Department and CONFIRM that the agent and company are licensed to write insurance in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce is here to help.
The vast majority of agents, brokers, and navigators are ethical and honest. If you do feel pressured or uneasy, don’t be afraid to go slow and ask questions.
The Commerce Department urges all consumers to use our license lookup tool to make sure the company or individual you are, or will be, working with is licensed to sell insurance in Minnesota. Do not purchase insurance with any agents, brokers, or companies that are not licensed to sell insurance in our state.
If you have any questions about your insurance or if you believe you have been a victim of a scam or fraud call our Consumer Response Team at 651-539-1600 or toll-free at 1-800-657-3602 (in Greater Minnesota).