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TheStreet Open House

Obamacare Switchover Carves Out Window for ID Thieves

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Consumer advocates are warning Americans to be wary of medical identification theft in advance of Oct. 1, when the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period begins.

The consumer scam alert website Fraud.org says con artists are prepping, too, for the official opening of Obamacare. "At Fraud.org, we are concerned that it's going to only get worse as state and federal health insurance exchanges come online this fall," the organization says in a press release. "Consumer confusion over Obamacare is one of the driving factors in these scams."

Analysts at the data security firm IdentityTheft911 agree, noting that medical ID theft can lead not only to medical bills and false insurance claims, but that when medical records are tainted with false history and diagnoses, critical treatment can be delayed and the wrong medications prescribed -- with dangerous consequences.

That's why it's so important to be on the lookout for medical identity theft, especially in light of the pending system changes, says Adam Levin, chairman of IdentityTheft 911. To help consumers avoid being victimized, he's offering the following tips:

Watch for "fake calls" from those claiming to represent Uncle Sam. If you get a call from anyone claiming to be an ACA health care navigator -- government health care specialists who help consumers figure out Obamacare -- ask for their contact information, confirm their authenticity independently and call them back. Levin advises that consumers search the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (the government agency charged with implementing provisions of health care reform) to find organizations in your state serving as navigators.

Check your medical bills. Levin says medical bills and insurance statements may contain important signs you are a victim of medical identity theft. "Open and carefully review each medical document you receive, checking the itemized costs," he says. "If something looks suspicious, investigate by calling right away."

Review your EOB statements. Insurance providers have to issue you an explanation of benefits after a doctor visit or medical procedure. Make sure to review the EOB and check the services charged against your own list of doctors visited, treatments received and dates of service.

Ask about privacy policies. Your health care provider should have a privacy policy in place, so make sure to ask about it. "Find out if that policy applies to their vendors, such as third-party billing companies," Levin says. "Does your dentist keep your records in a locked cabinet? Does your doctor use a crosscut shredder? Was your ID checked when you signed in? Smaller health care providers may not be aware of things they can do beyond HIPAA regulations."

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