Identity theft and the Affordable Care Act
Now that a big part of the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect, there's an unfortunate development -- a new crop of scams that fraudsters have come up with to secure unauthorized use of your personal information. You need to be aware of what the bad guys are doing and clear about what information should and should not be shared with strangers. Here are the most common threats:
PHONY ACA INSURANCE CARDS
There is no Affordable Care Act "insurance card." The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning that con artists are trying to lure people into providing Social Security numbers or bank account information so they can "send a new insurance card." With that information, the fraudsters can steal your identity. Remember, unlike Medicare, there are no insurance cards.
IMPOSTORS POSING AS ADVISERS
The Affordable Care Act created a designated breed of advisers known as "navigators," who generally work at nonprofits like the United Way or local agencies. Navigators are supposed to help answer questions and to help individuals enroll for coverage. Imposters are now calling and emailing unsuspecting consumers, posing as navigators and trying to steal their identities or sell them phony health insurance. Remember that no one from the government will call you, email you or show up to your house regarding the Affordable Care Act, so if one of these posers appears, hang up, hit delete or shut the door!
MEDICARE CARD SCAM
The Federal Trade Commission reports that Medicare-related complaints have skyrocketed from 117 in January to 2,164 in August. One new trick has the scammer saying that you need a new Medicare card. This is 100 percent false: There are no new Medicare cards as a result of the Affordable Care Act. This scheme attempts to obtain your Medicare card because your Social Security number is printed on it, which allows for a new identity to be established.
The government's official website for ACA is healthcare.gov. However, thieves are creating false sites with faux government seals that phish for personal information. Avoid any site except healthcare.gov, because it could lead to identity theft or nasty computer viruses.
If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, you are not alone. According to a survey by Javelin Strategy and Research, 12.6 million Americans had their identities stolen last year, and the criminals stole nearly $21 billion. If you think your identity has been stolen, you need to take immediate action.
Here's what to do
According to credit expert John Ulzheimer, there are four steps to take after you realize that you've been a victim:
STEP 1 Contact each of the credit bureaus (Equifax at 800-525-6285 and equifax.com; Experian at 888-397-3742 and experian.com; and TransUnion at 800-680-7289 and transunion.com), request a copy of all of your credit reports and put a fraud alert on each of them.
The fraud alert will help stop the identity thief from opening any more new accounts in your name. Additionally, lenders will see the alert and should stop the presses on any new account openings.
You should review the credit reports to see if there have been any new (and unauthorized) accounts, addresses and inquiries, which may indicate fraudulent activity. From the moment your identity is stolen, you should routinely check your credit report for signs of fraud.
STEP 2 File a police report. You will be asked whether you know who may have stolen your information.
STEP 3 Call the Federal Trade Commission hotline at 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338) and file a complaint. The FTC may be able to help with your dispute process and enables the police to track down identity thieves across the country.
STEP 4 Close any and all accounts (bank, credit card, etc.) that may have been affected by the identity theft. If thieves have somehow accessed all of your information (i.e. a mortgage file was stolen), then you will need to close everything for your own protection.
The arduous process of reclaiming your identity may be just a tiny bit easier if you follow these steps.