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'Obamacare' scams emerge as new policies take effect

Scammers are exploiting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information. Many key provisions of the ACA have either gone into effect or will go into effect soon, so don't let confusion around the new law cause you to fall for a scam.

How the scam works:

You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the federal government. The caller informs you you've been selected to receive insurance cards through the new Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). However, before he/she can mail your card, the caller needs to collect personal information.

Scammers do a lot to make their requests seem credible. For example, they may have your bank's routing number and ask you to provide your account number. Or, they may ask for your credit card or Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information.

Sharing personal information with a scammer puts you at risk for identity theft. Scammers can use the information they obtain to open credit cards in your name or steal from your bank account. 

How to spot a scam and protect yourself:

Con artists are taking advantage of the confusion and buzz surrounding the Affordable Care Act implementation. Here's what you can do to protect yourself:

• Hang up; don't press any buttons; and if you received a voice mail message, don't call the scammer back. We all like to have the last word, but returning the phone call may just give the con artist information he can use.

• The government typically doesn't call, text or email. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be very cautious of any unsolicited calls, text messages or emails you receive. Also, if the government is contacting you, they should already have your basic personal information, such as your Social Security number.

• Don't trust Caller ID. Scammers have technology that lets them display any number or organization name on your screen.

• There is only one place to shop for a qualified health plan:, which is run by the FTC's Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Who is being targeted?

Anyone can be the victim of this scam, but some groups are more likely to be targeted than others. The new law has special provisions for the following groups:

• People 65 years or older

• Persons with disabilities

• Owners of small businesses

More information on the ACA is available from the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace.

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