The overseer of consumer fraud – the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — remains closed today, due to the federal government’s partial shutdown. But scammers never seem to sleep, especially now that health care reform is in full swing and providing scammers with all sorts of new opportunities.
Just recently, the FTC had issued a new scam alert pertaining to U.S. health care reform, including the following suspicious offers:
- New Medicare cards. The Affordable Care Act (the basis for U.S. health care reform) does not require issuance of new Medicare cards. Also, it does not require government-issued cards that prove you have health insurance. The FTC’s advice: never give your personal or financial information to a stranger who contacts you.
- Fees for helping you navigate the health insurance exchanges. Help in navigating the WA health care exchange is provided by Washington State employees who are trained and certified for this purpose. They are not allowed to charge a fee for this.
- Medical discount plans. Medical discount plans are not a substitute for health insurance. These offers typically arrive in the mail and often look like insurance cards. Be suspicious. Usually, these are memberships to a club that claims to offer cheaper prices from certain doctors and pharmacies. The FTC has warned that some of these plans never intend to follow through on their offers, while others only want your financial data.
- Calls or emails from government officials. Government officials are not likely to “cold call” or email you to talk at length about health insurance, confirm your Social Security number, or ask for other personal information.
Normally, you can report suspected fraud on the FTC website: www.consumer.ftc.gov. While the FTC website is closed, one option is to contact the WA State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, at 800-552-4636; www.atg.wa.gov.