GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The president of the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan told 24 Hour News 8 his organization has already received hundreds of phone calls reporting scams connected to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
Healthcare.gov will be active for people to compare insurance providers and plans starting Oct. 1, but the scams started months ago.
Phil Catlett, president of the West Michigan chapter of the BBB, said that though the scams will never end, people can protect themselves and their loved ones from losing any money or information.
"Particularly, as we always warn, don't get pressured into anything," said Catlett. "You don't have to act right away."
Catlett said his agency has been hearing about many scams involving people calling potential targets and claiming to be from various government agencies, and pressing for personal information.
"It would appear to me that seniors are the most vulnerable based on the calls we're getting. It seems like most of these people are receiving some sort of government benefit right now -- whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, whatever it is," said Catlett. "So the scammers know that these people are more vulnerable. One is they're not as aware maybe, but the other is they're depending on this income to live and the scammers are able to use that fear to give information that they should not be giving."
Catlett said the lack of information about the ACA also provides the perfect storm for scammers, and it's particularly important for people to be wary.
"My expectation is we'll have hundreds, or thousands, of websites popping up that first day to try to grab you on Oct. 1. And there's going to be confusion enough on the legitimate websites because they're trying to get it all together, so that makes it all that much easier for the scam websites to take advantage of you," Catlett warned. "Because what they're telling you to do may work more smoothly than the government's actual site, so it's up to you to be aware, and be cautious and how you go at this."
There are a few rules to keep in mind, with the most important one to not to give any personal information over the phone.
"If they ask you for one bit of personal info on the phone, it's a scam," Catlett said.
He went on to say the federal government will not be calling you about insurance, and certainly wouldn't be pressing a decision after one phone call.
Catlett also said to always make sure you know who you give your personal information to online.
The government site is healthcare.gov. The domain healthcare.com also exists, but it is not the official government website.
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