Affordable Care Act spawns new twist on old identity-theft scam

Consumer Reports News: March 07, 2013 04:08 PM

Recently, consumers nationwide have received a phone call from federal employees, informing them that they're among the first Americans selected to receive health-insurance cards as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Before they mail out the cards, however, the government workers ask consumers for their personal data, including name, address, phone number, and bank account number.

No surprise, these calls are a bunch of malarkey and come from con artists looking to steal identities, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

This kind of scam pops up anytime there's a big change in a government policy or when a topic is in the news, says Jennifer Leach, a consumer-education specialist with the FTC whose beat is consumer rip-offs. (You'll find some of her work on the FTC's blog.)

The scammers hope to catch you off guard and convince you to divulge personal information. When you do of course, you fall victim to identity theft and the resultant headaches: bogus credit-card charges, drained bank accounts, new charge accounts, and even loans, taken out in your name.

Stay safe online: FInd tips and advice at our Guide to Internet Security.

Common sense is your best protection against this Affordable Care Act-themed scam: Next time you get a call asking for your personal information, hang up. Neither the government nor legitimate groups would ever call you to solicit such information, Leach says.

You can notify the FTC of bogus solicitations by calling 877-382-4357 or filling out an online form on the commission's complaint assistant page.

For more information on ID theft, phishing, and other 21st-century scams, read "Protect Your Privacy Online."And visit our insurance page for details on health-care reform and helpful advice on choosing best health-care plan for you and your family.

—Tod Marks

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