Milwaukee, Wis., April 16, 2010 – The ink is barely dry on the new federal health insurance law, but scam artists already are using it to peddle phony health policies, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently notified state attorneys general and insurance commissioners that scammers were knocking on doors to sell phony policies, claiming there is a limited enrollment period and urging consumers to buy quickly. However, it will be four years before expanded coverage is available, and it’s very unlikely that it then would be sold door-to-door.
“These types of scams often crop up when there is news of a big change in government policy, whether it’s health insurance or tax credits,” said Randall Hoth, president and CEO of the Wisconsin BBB. “It is despicable to prey on the fears of people by threatening them with a fictitious deadline or implying that they may be required to sign up for something.”
“Scams based on current events are nothing new,” Hoth said. He advised consumers to verify that insurance agents are licensed to do business in Wisconsin by calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at (800) 236-8517 or through the insurance department website: http://oci.wi.gov/
Sebelius told state officials that she had placed federal officials and the nation’s Medicare administrators on alert.
“Now we are counting on law enforcement officials in states across the country to crack down on those who seek to defraud consumers,” Sebelius wrote in a letter to attorneys general.
The BBB has tips for consumers who are approached by door-to-door salespeople:
- High-pressure tactics are often a part of fraudulent door-to-door sales and solicitations. Don’t let yourself be hurried, intimidated or coerced.
- If you are interested in buying from a door-to-door seller, get everything in writing, including price, warranty and all conditions. Tell the salesperson you will check over the information and get back to him or her.
- Always ask for proper identification before listening to the pitch.
- Never let a stranger inside your home.
- If you feel threatened, call the police.
If you have concerns about salespeople who are knocking on your door, calling you on the phone, or sending you e-mail, contact the BBB at 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (NE Wisconsin) or 800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin) or at www.bbb.org for a Reliability Report on the company.