Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Business

Beware of con artists trying to cash in on Obamacare

Consumers weren't able to sign up for insurance under new health care exchanges until last week, but con artists have been scheming for months to steal money or Social Security numbers under the guise of the Affordable Care Act.

And it's bound to get worse, regulators and consumer advocates fear.

"They will use whatever new thing is on the horizon," said Kim Cammarata, director of the health education and advocacy unit of the Maryland Attorney General's Office.

Regulators and consumer advocates have been working to get ahead of the scammers. The Federal Trade Commission recently held a public meeting on how to protect consumers against fraud with the arrival of health care marketplaces. And the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Federation of America and others have published tips to help consumers recognize fraud.

"We don't want to frighten people off of taking advantage of this new benefit," said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection with the Consumer Federation of America. "But we want them to be careful about it."

Here are things to be on the lookout for as you navigate the new exchanges:

Help is free. Don't pay for it: Similarly, don't take calls from strangers offering to sell you an Affordable Care Act-compliant policy in exchange for your credit card number, said FTC spokesman Frank Dorman.

New insurance cards: The Better Business Bureau recently reported that consumers received calls from a scammer claiming to be from the federal government and telling them they were chosen to receive insurance cards through the Affordable Care Act. The caller said the consumers needed to provide bank account and Social Security numbers before the cards could be mailed out.

Policy pushers: If you're on Medicare, you have already met the government mandate to have insurance next year.

That might not stop someone from trying to sell you a policy anyway. But it's illegal for a person who knows you have Medicare to sell you a policy on the exchange.

Medical discount cards: Under this scheme, you're sold a card that's supposed to provide discounts at doctors' offices or at drugstores.

"Sometimes they are misleadingly promoted as insurance," said the Consumer Federation's Grant. "And you get this discount card that may or may not be honored by anybody."

That's not Obamacare calling: Don't let your guard down if Caller ID shows that the caller appears to be from the government or other legitimate source, said Jody Thomas, vice president of communications with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. Con artists have technology that can "spoof" Caller ID, making any number or name they want show up on your screen, she said.

Uncle Sam prefers snail mail: If the federal government is going to contact you, it's not going to be by email or text message, Thomas said. The government typically contacts consumers via the U.S. Postal Service.

If you suspect fraud, you can report it to the FTC toll-free at 1-877-382-4357.

Comments
Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Among the marching bands and twirlers at Saturday’s St. Pete Pride Parade, one major sponsor, Tech Data, is sending by far a record number of employees — more than 700 at last count — to march in Florida’s largest gay pride parade.The parade, which d...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

TAMPA — Publix shoppers in South Tampa who hate circling the lot for parking can now toss their keys to a valet.The Publix at Dale Mabry and Neptune started testing a free valet service last week that could expand to more stores. Spokesman Brian West...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

A sign asking customers at a Dunkin’ Donuts store in Baltimore to report employees who were heard not speaking English has set off a controversy.The sign, according tothe Baltimore Sun, would offer coupons to customers who reported workers at a dough...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Former Tampa Bay banking executive Bill Klich was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Bankers Association last week at an annual meeting in Palm Coast.Klich, 73, has a strong reputation with more than four decades of commercial ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Jeff Vinik-backed construction material firm headed to Port Tampa Bay

Jeff Vinik-backed construction material firm headed to Port Tampa Bay

TAMPA — With $3 billion in construction on the boards, Water Street Tampa will need a lot of concrete, so a company whose largest investor is Jeff Vinik is moving to Port Tampa Bay to begin importing fly ash, a component of concrete.Spartan Materials...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Drugs at your doorstep: CVS will deliver prescriptions to your home

Drugs at your doorstep: CVS will deliver prescriptions to your home

CVS Health will make prescription deliveries nationwide to accommodate the heightened expectations of convenience from consumers. The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain says it also will make home deliveries of other items, like allergy medicine...
Updated: 7 hours ago
St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents can expect their water and sanitation bills to increase between $7 and $11 starting in October.That represents an average of a 7-percent increase. Customers who use an average of 4,000 gallons a month, including reclaimed w...
Published: 06/19/18
Spectrum’s new service will eventually increase the cost for TV

Spectrum’s new service will eventually increase the cost for TV

Spectrum’s new all-digital service is set to bring more high definition, faster internet speeds and expanded on-demand offerings — but it also comes with higher costs for some of its TV customers in Tampa Bay. Each TV that receives service from Spect...
Published: 06/19/18
Medical manufacturer to add 116 jobs in Pasco County expansion

Medical manufacturer to add 116 jobs in Pasco County expansion

NEW PORT RICHEY — TouchPoint Medical, an engineering and manufacturer of high-tech hospital equipment, plans to put its global headquarters into a 125,000-square-foot industrial and corporate office building in Pasco County.Tuesday morning, county co...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITALS RECEIVE AWARD: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Medical Center of Trinity were recipients of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals t...
Updated: 10 hours ago