Adding insult to injury, the glitch-plagued Obamacare website is now the target of scam artists. That's right. Crooks who would like to loot the bank accounts of people looking for health care coverage are using the cover of Obamacare to do their dirty work.
The federal government and state insurance commissioners have been warning about potential fraud for months and now it's becoming clear that health care reform ushers in a perfect storm for identity thieves because the law requires consumers to share a wide range of personal data including income. The root of the problem is that the Obamacare exchange is NOT made up of one authoritative site where people can go and enroll for coverage. Instead, there is the official federal site, but also sites run by individual states and within each state there can be legitimate third-party sites that hook consumers up with insurance brokers. A simple Google search on the word, "Obamacare," for example turns up 59.7 million hits, and that complexity offers plenty of coverage for scammers.
Among the scams being perpetrated: In Tennessee, scam artists are making calls claiming they need Social Security numbers to sign up people for a new Obamacare insurance card. It sounds legitimate, but it is not. Others are randomly calling consumers, offering to walk people through the application process for $100. Also a scam. The government supplies "navigators" in each state for free, though it's unclear how well they are trained. Don't be fooled by unsolicited phone calls from people claiming they need to update your profile for Medicare. Also a scam.
Others are setting up scam websites that they hope you click on, instead of legit ones. These fake Obamacare websites are reminiscent of the bogus sites set up to rip off consumers after the government put in place multiple mortgage help programs during the housing meltdown. Christopher Budd, Trendmicro communications manager, says that a well-crafted scam is often undetectable until malicious activity is detected.
In short, it's up to you to keep yourself safe and stay away from the scam artists. The best way to do that: Don't start your search for help with a Google search. Instead go to the government's official website to get started and follow what the experts call "a chain of trust." That site may point you to other websites operated by the state or insurers. The way to check their legitimacy is to look for a digital certificate, which can be found here. This is basically a driver's license or passport for websites to prove they are who they say they are.