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Criminals Capitalizing On Confusion Over Affordable Care Act

By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Obamacare has suffered website glitches since its initial rollout, but one group is having no problem with the law: scammers, preying on people who don't know the ins and outs of health insurance reform.

The Affordable Care Act is big and new.  There are questions, confusion -- and, of course, criminals looking to capitalize.

"One of them is called the $299 or $399 scam," says Rebecca Nurick, program manager with Pennsylvania Senior Medicare Patrol.  "That's where a scammer will call and say, 'we've got this new card that's part of the Affordable Care Act and offers all the benefits you'll need for a flat fee.'"

There's no such card, and no need to turn over any money, Nurick says.

Another racket? Someone on the phone claiming to be from the government, asking to confirm your Medicare number.

"Medicare will never call you and ask for personal information.  Social Security will not call you and ask for personal information," she says.  "There's the risk of identity theft and all sorts of other problems with divulging that information."

And anyway, people on Medicare keep their current benefits and don't need to make any changes due to the new law.

"We've also heard reports of callers saying they've been told by someone who may say, 'I'm from the government (or Medicare, or Social Security), and we need to get you a new Medicare card because of the Affordable Care Act, and there's a fee to process that card.'" Nurick says that's another con.

"We tell people to pay attention and read their bills and statements that come in from Medicare, Social Security, or whatever plan they have, to check for accuracy and to make sure there aren't errors," she cautions.  "If someone tells you you need to sign up right away because these benefits are great and it's a limited time offer, that's not the case.  People should request information in the mail and make an informed decision."

And if someone on the line invites you to pay for advice to navigate Obamacare, Nurick says don't worry about being rude: hang up the phone.

Pennsylvania Senior Medicare Patrol offers help -- and can refer people in other states to their respective federally-funded beneficiary protection programs -- at 800-356-3606.

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