BBB warns of health insurance, breast cancer awareness scams

October 17, 2013

Scammers have been known to pose as ACA advisors in exchange for money or personal information, tell elderly people they would lose their Medicare coverage, act as government imposters or offer fake medical discount plans to consumers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there have been over 1,100 complaints reported about this issue. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to ignore phone calls and emails from people who claim to be a government or ACA official.

"Since the Affordable Care Act is new, government imposters are easily able to take advantage of consumers who aren't informed," says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Real government officials never call or email consumers about this new law, so ignore suspicious calls from people who request personal information and remember that genuine counselors don't ask for a fee in advance."

These ACA situations happen in every form of communication including phone, fax and email. Consumers need to know that with healthcare programs, such as Medicare or medical discount cards, the government doesn't need any new information on the phone. New Medicare cards aren't needed, so consumers don't have to divulge any information. Also, medical discount plans don't need to be taken care of by the government and can be purchased via a doctor or pharmacy.

The BBB advises consumers to follow these tips to avoid Affordable Care Act fraud:

If you get one of these calls, hang up the phone. You may be tempted to call back, but this will only give the scammer another opportunity to steal your information. Also, be sure not to press any buttons that the scammer instructs.

Never give out personal information. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or social security number.
Don't rely on caller ID. Some scammers are able to display a company's name or phone number on the caller ID screen. Don't always trust that that information. br> The government rarely communicates via phone calls. Most of the time, the government uses traditional U.S. mail to communicate to consumers. The government rarely calls, emails or texts, so don't give your information to these types of government messages. br> For more tips and information about scams, visit

Check Out the Charity Before 'Going Pink' for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Says Better Business Bureau

Scam charities often use emotional appeals to target their victims, warns the Better Business Bureau. This caution is especially relevant because many businesses are marketing pink ribbon products and services supporting breast cancer research and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) in October.

"The goal is for as much of the money to go to the curing cancer, not in running an organization to make money for the operators," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Consumers can ensure this by asking charities proper questions before donating and by doing a careful assessment of the charity."

Consumers can check out charities online with the BBB at National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) organization also has a website at group is a collaboration of national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease, and provide greater access to services.

The BBB encourages consumers to look for companies that disclose a charity name, the amount of a sale going to the charity, the duration of marketing campaigns and, if applicable, the maximum or minimum contribution amount.

While many pink ribbon marketing campaigns are trustworthy, consumers can eliminate breast cancer awareness charity scams by doing the following:

Research the charity with the BBB. If the product or service is in support of an unfamiliar charity, learn more about the organization by reviewing the BBB's charity report online at
Identify the charity receiving the donation. If the product or service is linked to a donation percentage, contact the business or manufacturer to determine exactly where the money is going and what percentage is donated.
Confirm the charity's corporate partners. Many national breast cancer charities list the names of corporate partners and sponsors on their websites.
If you contribute, do not give cash. Use a credit card or check or money order made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.
Keep records of your donations. This includes receipts, canceled checks, and bank statement. Keeping these documents will allow you to document your charitable giving at tax time. Although the value of your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses (including transportation costs) directly related to your volunteer service to a charity are deductible.
Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs. Also be careful of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity actually does.
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