California takes down 10 fake Obamacare websites

SACRAMENTO, California Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:35pm EST

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Authorities in California shut down 10 fake Obamacare websites, amid nationwide concern among law enforcement officials about potential fraud during the program's rollout, the state's attorney general said on Thursday.

The sites, which mimicked the official "Covered California" affordable health insurance website, were removed from the internet in an effort to stop fraud connected to the rollout, said a spokesman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who ordered the sites to close after a month-long investigation.

"These websites fraudulently imitated Covered California in order to lure consumers away from plans that provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act," Harris said in a statement. "My office will continue to investigate and shut down these kinds of sites."

The extent of fraud related to the Affordable Care Act is not yet clear. But Harris' spokesman, Nicholas Pacilio, said that attorneys general from several states have been participating in regular conference calls on the subject.

In September, Better Business Bureaus nationwide warned that fraudulent telemarketers were calling consumers pretending to offer information about the Affordable Care Act in an effort to obtain personal information for identity theft.

In the California case, the websites used names meant to evoke the state's own insurance exchange, such as "Californiahealthbenefitexchange.com," Harris said.

Consumers who used internet search programs such as Google to find the Covered California site were presented with ads for the fake sites instead, some of them using the exchange's logo and using its name.

But instead of directing users to the site of the state's insurance exchange, where they could purchase policies approved under the new law and possibly qualify for a federal subsidy, the ads took consumers to the websites of private insurance companies and brokers.

Harris warned consumers who wish to sign up to go directly to the state's site, which is www.coveredca.com. She said policies offered outside the exchanges may not have the consumer protections required by the Affordable Care Act and may not be eligible for subsidies.

Harris did not disclose the names of the businesses involved, other than to list the now-shut website names.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Gevirtz)

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Comments (4)
tooner wrote:
At least, the fake websites probably are more functional than the real Obamacare sites.

Nov 14, 2013 4:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
scrushmaster wrote:
Spam Sites prob signed up more people….

Nov 15, 2013 3:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
lucky12345 wrote:
I figured it was Bush’s fault, we know Obama didn’t know anything, because well he really doesn’t know anything. “[N]o matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period,” President Obama said to an audience at the annual conference of the American Medical Association. “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what. Again, [the Affordable Care Act] is for people who aren’t happy with their current plan. If you like what you’re getting, keep it. Nobody is forcing you to shift,” he later added. Now Obama declares that you can keep your old JUNK insurance, BUT only for another year… Isn’t “Hope and Change” a wonderful thing!

Nov 15, 2013 7:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
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