Scammers target elderly over Affordable Care Act

Scammers are targeting the elderly in anticipation of the transition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Washington State Attorney General's office joined with the Federal Trade Commission last week in efforts to make people aware of the scams.

"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.

Authorities at both the state and federal levels believe the scammers will come out of the woodwork.

Here in Washington, the AG's office was tipped off by a woman who said her mother was contacted by someone posing as a government official and asking for updated information for the ACA. This person, the daughter said, began by asking her mother for a checking account number, then proceeded to reference the daughter to potentially seem more legitimate.

Earlier this month, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned of such scams. The BBB began to receive reports almost immediately following the Supreme Court's decision. Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of the St. Louis BBB, noted 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."

The AG's office notes that those age 50 and over are usually targeted for these kinds of scams and identity theft. Often times, older people have more assets available for scammers and thieves to exploit. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft victims age 60 or older jumped from 1,800 cases in 2000 to more than 6,000 cases in 2001.

"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," Smith said.

The AG's office warns of these red flags:

• Fraudulent sales callers might use high-pressure tactics, but the AG's office advises not to be pressured, intimated 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 personal information. The AG's office advises neither the government nor legitimate businesses will ever ask for that information over the phone.

• Finally, refuse to send money via wire transfers. Assume that anyone prompting the transfer of funds this way is a scammer. The AG's office notes "once you send funds this way, the money is gone and can't be retrieved."


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