Scammers newest ruse: Health care reform

While Congress debates and States set up new healthcare websites - scammers are having a hay day with the Affordable Care Act. They're posing as federal contractors, Medicare workers, or officials in the health insurance industry.

Consumer advocates say the goal appears to be obtaining personal information under the guise of helping their targets figure out if they qualify for benefits under health care reform.

"I think the potential is there for this to be sort of a scam epidemic," said Jean Mathisen, Director of the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center in Seattle. Volunteers are busy calling consumers across the state to warn of an increase in calls and emails from individuals claiming to need their information for the new health benefit plans.

"I need your Medicare number. I need your date of birth. Sometimes they're told that their premium needs to be deducted directly from the checking account, so bank account information may be gathered up," Mathisen said.

But the calls and emails are scams, because no one from the government is going to be calling you about your health insurance. Slick tricksters may even try to come to your home.

Dale Munari says she got a call from a man claiming to be from Bellevue, who wanted to make an appointment to come to her house. "And they were required by Medicare to come and explain why Medicare was going to raise the rates," Munari explained. Fortunately her experience as a Fraud Fighter volunteer helped her recognize the red flags right away.

If you have any questions about the new health benefits exchange, contact the Office of the State Insurance Commissioner. Their Washington Health Plan Finder answers questions, and guides you through the insurance exchange process so you can compare different plans.

They also have a special section called SHIBA - Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors.

"They're going to show you the options that you have. It's going to be your choice as to whether you act on it or not. It won't be the high pressure, arm-twisting experience that you'll get from a true scammer," said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

The Fraud Fighter volunteers says they know the scam calls won't stop any time soon. So they'll keep calling and warning- as long as the scammers are out there.