BBB warns of potential health care reform scams


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With medical insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act due to open next month, the Better Business Bureau is warning that scammers may find so-called Obamacare an attractive way to prey on vulnerable people, hoping to steal their identities and money.

"We believe scammers are poised to call consumers and offer them health insurance cards in exchange for personal information," said Tom Stephens, BBB's president and CEO. "Consumers who receive such calls should ignore them. If you provide information, you could be at risk for identity theft."

Here's how a scam could work: You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the federal government. The scammer says that you have been selected to receive insurance cards under the new health care law. But before the card can be mailed, your bank account and Social Security numbers are required. Once the scammers get this information, they can sell it or use it to access your accounts.

"These scammers may be able to convince some uniformed consumers that their calls are legitimate, especially with such a hot topic as the new health care law," Stephens said. "Consumers should understand that the government rarely calls individuals. If you receive this type of call, hang up."

The BBB offers the following tips to people who experience healthcare scams:

  • Hang up the phone. If you get one of these calls, just hang up. You may be tempted to call back, but this will only give the scammer another opportunity to steal your information. Also, be sure not to press any buttons that the scammer instructs.
  • Never give out personal information. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or Social Security number.
  • Don't rely on caller ID. Some scammers are able to display a company's name or phone number on the caller ID screen. Don't trust that the information you see is true.

The government rarely communicates via phone calls. Most of the time, the government uses traditional postal mail to communicate with consumers. The government rarely calls, emails or texts, so you should view such contacts as suspect if they claim to represent the government.

Consumers are urged to contact the BBB at 314-645-3300 or BBB.org, for a BBB Business Review before doing business with any company or charity.