The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 1, 2013

How to protect yourself from scammers who could be taking advantage of the Obamacare confusion

— President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is set to take effect today, and officials are warning the public to be aware of potential scammers who are looking to steal personal information.

Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania, said BBB organizations across the country have seen scammers posing as government workers or health insurance carriers trying to sell people health care programs that don’t exist or asking for information such as bank accounts and credit cards numbers.

“Any time there are changes in policy there will be those who will try to take advantage and steal people’s money,” he said.

King identified seniors 65 and older and small-business owners as the most targeted.

He stressed that the government doesn’t call people directly. Most contacts are done through mail or online.

“If you are contacted by these scammers, hang up the phone,” King said. “You are not going to be getting phone calls, emails or faxes from the government or health insurance companies.”

He also said to be skeptical of the phone number displayed on the caller ID, because scammers are using a technique to change the number to make it look more official.

M. Veil Griffith, administrator with the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging, said the agency distributes information on a monthly basis from Scam Wire, a service of the Pennsylvania Senior Medicare Patrol, to area seniors who use the home meal delivery service on emerging scams and frauds.

“We try to get it out there and alert people. We also put information in our senior centers,” she said.

An upcoming Scam Wire addresses Medicare’s open enrollment scams.

To find legitimate people to help with the new health care options, visit www.healthcare.gov or call the Better Business Bureau at 800-318-2596.

Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/KellyUrban25.

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