Scammers taking advantage of consumer confusion and uncertainty.
Day One of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and already, the scammers are up to their usual tricks. In fact, NBC5 Investigates found, some of the fraud started well before parts of the legislation ever kicked in.
"They're taking advantage of consumer confusion or uncertainty about the new laws require. So these old scams-become more effective than they may have been in the past," according to Todd Kossow of the Federal Trade Commission.
In May of this year, the FTC received 1,100 complaints about scams that were connected in some way to changes in the health care system. Imposters claiming to be from Medicare or from the new insurance exchanges knocked on doors, called homes and emailed-in many cases, trying to glean personal financial information from victims.
"If you hear of any of these things: that we want you to wire money, we want you to give us your bank account-run in the other direction because it is a scam," says Sally Greenberg of the National Consumers League.
The scammers are using all the ACA buzz words, specifically "navigators." That is the word for people who've been trained, certified and hired to help uninsured consumers cut through the clutter and confusion, to learn their choices. Imposter navigators are asking for very different information than legitimate navigators will ever ask for, according to experts involved in training and implementation of ACA outreach campaigns.
Authorities say legitimate navigators will never knock on your door out of the blue, cold call your home, or email you asking for personal health and financial information. Never. Legitimate navigators (also referred to as "assistors" in Illinois) can be found by visiting www.healthcare.gov or www.getcoveredillinois.gov. Consumers can enter their zip code to find help near their homes.
In Illinois, the navigator or assistor has gone through about 45 hours of training, and must pass an exam in order to be certified, according to UIC School of Public Health professor Beth Calhoun.
"I'm super impressed with the people who've come through the training," Calhoun says. "They are highly trained, coming to you with a lot of tools and a lot of information."
Consumer League's Greenberg agrees: "Navigators are highly trained ... They're not asking you for your bank account, not asking you to wire money. All of these signs are red flags."