With the launch of Montana’s health insurance exchange this week, the Office of Consumer Protection at the state Department of Justice is offering tips to help Montanans avoid identity theft scams related to medical services and health insurance products.
“Montanans need to be aware that scammers may take advantage of the insurance exchange launch and attempt to trick people into revealing confidential information or into signing up for bogus products and services,” said Office of Consumer Protection Director Matt Dale. “When a large program launches or when a natural disaster strikes that increases charitable activities, we tend to see a rise in scam complaints.”
“Scammers need to know we take these problems very seriously in Montana,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “One of my priorities during the 2013 Legislative Session was a bill to strengthen Montana’s consumer protection laws by increasing penalties for people or organizations that scam the elderly and mentally disabled. The evidence across the country is clear that scammers tend to target these groups particularly. While this new law took effect on Tuesday, awareness and attentiveness are still our best tools for combating scams.”
The Office of Consumer Protection offers the following tips for avoiding scams:
• Educate yourself. Go to www.healthcare.gov. You can learn more about protecting yourself from scams here.
• Be cautious of sharing personal information such as your social security number or any bank account numbers.
• Do not give your Social Security number, or any bank account or credit card information, to any company that you did not contact. Do not offer this information to companies you heard about through unsolicited advertisements.
• Do not give out personal health history or share current health conditions or treatments you are or ever have received. No one should ask you for this.
• You do not have to pay application or “sign-up” fees. The new health care exchange has trained assisters that will help you for free.
• If you are on Medicare, you do not need a new card. If you are told you do, it could be a scam. Do not share your Medicare number with anyone who contacts you telling you that you need a new Medicare card.
• If information is not being clearly explained to you, ask questions until you get a clear answer. Do not sign up for something you do not understand.
• Do not respond to callers, emails, text messages, or advertisements that ask for your personal or financial information. If you get a message and are concerned about your account status, call the number on the back your credit or debit card.
• Never send or wire money to someone you do not know. It is best to do business with companies or websites that you know and trust. When buying items try to use payment options that offer protection such as credit cards. Avoid cash and wire transfer services.
To report a scam or to file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Protection, call 1-800-481-6896 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also file a consumer complaint online.