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CBS47 Investigates: Scam Around ObamaCare

How to protect yourself from becoming the victim of a scam that's hit Central California.
The Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to carry health insurance, but now some people are trying to use that new law to rip you off. The Better Business Bureau is warning people about callers claiming to be with the government. These callers say they need your personal information for the new health care system, but it's really just  a way to steal your identity and take your money.  

Privacy is such a big deal at the Covered California call center in Fresno, they won't even let CBS47 inside with a camera. Scammers, on the other hand, can't wait to get their hands on your personal information so they can sell it or exploit it.

Inside an unmarked building on Palm and Herndon, more than a hundred workers are being trained to handle phone calls and questions about the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as ObamaCare or Covered California. Confusion over the new government-mandated health care gives scammers a prime opportunity to prey on unsuspecting victims. The scam is hitting nationwide. 

"If they call and they want personal information, don't give it to them," said BBB Director of Business Services, Cindy Dudley. 

The Better Business Bureau says it has taken complaints from several people across Central California. They say the callers claim to be with ObamaCare and they need to update your information. If you don't give it to them than you could go to jail. CBS47 Eyewitness News investigates the differences between the scammers and the real ObamaCare workers. 

"We're not going to mandate it, you won't go to jail or anything like that. If you're getting highly pressured just know it's probably not us," said Athena Fleming who is the Covered California Information Officer. 

Fleming says enrollment counselors are not aggressive sales people and it doesn't cost money to enroll. If someone calls, comes to your door, or emails you then you can check their credentials. 

"The name, the certified agent's id number, their entity and we'll be able to run that and tell you whether they're legitimate or not," said Fleming.  The number to call for verification is 1-800-300-1506. 

Some community health care offices, like United Health Centers, have trained workers to answer patients questions. They're also out in the community getting the word out. 

Director of Special Projects, Norma Macedo said, "We felt that there's a need for us to go out there and educate our patients because our patients don't know what's going on. As it is they have a hard time with just basic coverage."

Whether in person or over the phone, BBB is urging people to think twice before giving out their personal information. 

"The easiest thing to do is to hang up on them, just hang up," said Dudley. 

You have until March to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, and if you still aren't sure whether or not you need to do anything, you can call 1-800-300-1506.

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