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Health care scams targeting elderly

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office is joining the Federal Trade Commission in warning consumers about a new scam targeting seniors.

“Do not give personal details to callers posing as government officials attempting to collect your health information as part of the new Affordable Care Act,” said Shannon Smith, Division Chief for the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

Federal and state authorities believe scammers will increasingly exploit news about the recent health care ruling to target seniors, confuse and rip them off.  One consumer tipped off the Attorney General’s Office that her mother was contacted by someone who said they were from the government calling to update her health information for the new Affordable Care Act.  The caller first asked for a checking account number.  Then, in an attempt to seem legitimate, the caller referenced the woman’s daughter, who probably showed up in public records searches.

Earlier in July, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned consumers to be watchful for scams related to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.  Scams related to the federal health insurance law were reported immediately after the act was passed.  Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of the BBB in St. Louis commented that “These types of scams often crop up when there is news of a big change in government policy, whether it’s health insurance or tax credits.”

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America with consumers losing billions of dollars each year.   People over age 50 are especially vulnerable and make up a significant percentage of those who fall victim to identity thieves. Older people are targeted because thieves know they are wealthier than younger people and generally have better credit. Retirement communities are easy targets. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft targeting people over the age of 60 jumped from 1,800 cases in 2000 to almost 6,000 the following year.

“You can help educate your friends, parents, and others by becoming familiar with some of the more common scams and how they operate and share that information with others,” said Smith.

Be aware of common red flags and know how to avoid them:

Fraudulent sales callers might use high-pressure tactics, but do not be pressured, intimidated or coerced; scammers trying to sell phony policies might urge consumers to buy quickly claiming there is a limited enrollment period.

Be skeptical of offers about health insurance and callers asking for your personal information. Neither the government nor legitimate companies will contact you and ask for personal details, so avoid providing that information over the phone. Never give out personal details such as your social security number or account numbers

Refuse to send money via wire transfers. Assume that any time someone asks you to send money by Western Union or Moneygram, it’s a scam.  Once you send funds this way, the money is gone and can’t be retrieved.

More information:

· FTC Consumer Alert: Scammers Out to Profit on U. S. Supreme Court's Ruling on the Affordable Care Act


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