Feature Article
Mark Pribish
The Risk of ID Theft and the Affordable Health Act ("Obamacare")
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

In September the Better Business Bureau (BBB) published a "Scam Alert" (read the alert here) as identity theft criminals and scammers have begun to exploit the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by tricking consumers into sharing their personal information.

The scam works when someone claiming to be with the federal government makes a phone call to consumers to inform them that they have been selected to receive insurance cards through the new Affordable Care Act.

However, before an individual can receive their card the caller needs to collect personal information such as a bank account number, credit card number, Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information - all of which will increase your risk for identity theft.

In October, the Attorney General of Arizona warned consumers to avoid scams around the Affordable Care Act (read the warning here) - reporting that fake websites, attempts to steals consumer's personal information, and the sale of fake Affordable Care Act cards have been reported across the country.

Obamacare
Image source: Congressman Jim Moran's website

However, the identity theft criminals and scammers are just one half of the identity theft and data breach risk equation.

Another, and equal concern for consumers, are the new online health insurance exchanges, which opened on October 1. Currently, there are fourteen states and Washington, D.C. that have implemented their own exchanges, while the Federal Government has opened the HealthCare.gov exchange for more than 30 other states.

The fact is that the online health exchanges are a new and attractive target for hackers and identity theft criminals who are determined to steal your personal information. The big question is, can these exchanges responsibly safeguard the personal data of individuals?

I believe the answer is unlikely, as in no. As each of the largest banks, insurance companies, credit bureaus, and government agencies, including the Internal Revenues Service, having the most financial and information technology resources available, each have experienced multiple data breaches over the last 7 years. So what leads the health insurance exchanges to believe they are safe from a future data breach event?

Finally and to support the safeguarding of the health insurance exchanges, 13 state attorney general's sent the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) a letter in August (read the letter here) with concerns about the lack of background screening and fingerprinting requirements for navigators and individuals that assist the navigators.

Navigators are individuals and organizations trained to help consumers, small businesses and their employees decide on the appropriate health insurance and as a result, will have access to personal information such as tax information, Social Security information, and bank account information.

If navigators are not registered with each state and do not go through a criminal background check and fingerprinting, then the potential for ID Theft will increase with each bad hire.

My recommendation is for individuals to learn about the information security and governance best practices of their individual health insurance exchange (including background checks) prior to sharing personal information and signing up for coverage.

Sincerely,
Mark

To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.



Scam Central

Using Your Words Against You!

In today's business world, online advertising is essential. The first place the majority of people turn to when looking for information is the internet. Whether you need a medical plan, a plumber, or a new car, you can find it all online. If your company is to keep up with the competition, it will need an online presence.

Advertising online is fast and easy, but it comes with a price. The desire to show up first in a search result can be costly. For large companies with big marketing budgets, the return on investment for that number one spot is well worth the cost of a click.

For those companies that do not participate in the marketing rush for first place, placing an ad in the Yellow Pages may be a more suitable alternative. Having established an online presence as well as maintaining their familiar paper phonebook format, the Yellow Pages have a listing for almost any business, anywhere. And, the Yellow Pages business is still good. So good in fact, that scammers are now cashing in on the Yellow Pages name.

How It Works:

A recent scam article from the Better Business Bureau (see the article here) reports that people are receiving phone calls from someone who claims to represent the Yellow Pages asking to verify information about your company, such as the office address and phone number. Having successfully verified the information, the phone call ends. Within a few weeks however, your company receives an invoice from the Yellow Pages for a listing in the online directory to the tune of $400.

When you call to question the charge, the representative claims that you "verbally confirmed" the ad and even has the audacity to playback a recording of you allegedly agreeing to the ad placement. The recording is specially crafted to include you saying "yes" as if you are agreeing to the placement of the advertisement, when in reality, you were confirming the information they wanted to update.

Your Defense:

Even when it appears to be a harmless, non-selling conversation, a clever scammer can use your words against you, as demonstrated above. If someone starts asking you to verify information over the phone, just hang up. Scammers can spoof a phone number to make it appear that they are calling from anywhere, representing any company, so do not trust the caller ID. Use an alternative source to get the real phone number for the company in question and call to verify whether someone attempted to reach you. Also, verify what, if any, costs are involved in the process.

Be aware of whom your company advertises with as well. It may be handy to keep a list of those companies and websites close to the phone for easy retrieval later. After all, if someone from the Yellow Pages calls and you do not advertise with the Yellow Pages, why would they be calling to confirm your information?

If you do end up on the wrong side of this scam, please be sure to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the FTC. Provide as much information as possible, including phone numbers, dates of contact, and copies of any invoices you may receive.

Do not be afraid to advertise online. Every company needs to promote themselves in order to grow. As long as you are familiar with whom you advertise, a scam like this one will never put a dent in your advertising budget.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.