October 7, 2015 by Lisa Brammer
When I want to buy something, the first thing I do is pick up my laptop (or tablet). It’s so nice to be able to sit around in my jammies while I’m surfing the net looking for a bargain. And as you might have guessed, I’m not alone. I’ve read (online of course) on the Statistic Brain Research Institute’s website that a whopping 87 percent of online users have made an online purchase. And it is projected that this year’s online sales in the U.S. will total $347,000,000,000. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time wrapping my brain around 347 billion dollars. Anyway, suffice it to say, a lot of us are shopping online.
As the number of online shoppers goes up, do you know what else increases? The number of online scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently mailed 6,832 checks totaling more than $1.1 million to online shoppers who were swindled into buying what they thought was a comprehensive health insurance plan. What they actually received was a membership to an obscure trade association.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated event. Once legislation for Obamacare passed, phony health insurance scams have popped up all over the place, the internet included. Some, like the scam listed above, deceptively sell memberships which include very few medical benefits while others phish for personal information or promise non-existent health insurance plans.
It’s always important to be careful when purchasing online, this includes being tightfisted when it comes to giving out your personal information. The consumers that got bilked in the scam I wrote about earlier—the one the FTC got involved with—submitted their personal contact information to websites that supposedly offered to supply quotes and plan information from health insurance companies. Instead they received a telephone call that sold them the bogus insurance.
When shopping online or talking to telemarketers be alert to the red flags:
• If the price for the insurance sounds too good to be true, chances are it isn’t true.
• If you are threatened. Some scammers are known to tell consumers they will go to jail if they don’t have insurance. While it’s true American’s are required to have insurance, uninsured individuals could face financial penalties, not jail time.
• The premium offer is good for a very limited time. If you feel rushed or pressured into buying the insurance quickly, you could be dealing with a scammer.
• The salesperson states they work for the government. The federal government and state insurance departments do not contact individuals to sell them insurance.
Just because a website is well designed and looks “official” doesn’t mean it’s real. Be alert if policy information seems sketchy or incomplete. Do an internet search of the company and look for complaints. You might be surprised with what you find.
Before making a purchase, protect yourself by researching the agent and the company you’re considering. As they say, forewarned is forearmed.
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