As a non-profit agency, the Identity Theft Resource Center prides itself on being a wholly neutral party when it comes to political issues. Our mission is to serve the public-at-large and we take that responsibility very seriously. But from time to time, an issue can pose such a threat to the public that we must speak up, even at the risk of appearing to take sides.

Scammers are casting their nets under the guise of political discord, and they’re relying on hot button issues to instill a sense of public panic. One of the most common scams right now may very well be the “Obamacare” scam, which spreads false information about pending changes to health insurance regulations in order to frighten victims into turning over their money.

Social media posts are already doing half the scammers’ work for them. With news headlines and individual posts about the threat of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a program to replace it, scammers simply have to point to such an article to say the public must act now.

This is certainly not the first issue that identity thieves and scammers have been able to capitalize on in order to lure new victims. Changes to the IRS regulations, especially ones that will result in delayed refunds in order to prevent fraud, leave the door wide open for scammers to convince you that they can secure your refund for you. The recent controversy surrounding college tuition costs and student financial aid has resulted in scams that claim to help you get your student loan debt forgiven for a significant fee, then ultimately route the victim directly back to a free government program that they could have used on their own.

Before falling for any “act now” offer, it’s important to verify the company behind it and the method they plan to use you fulfill their claim. Many of the Obamacare relief scams have been nothing more than a registration (plus fee) that gives you lists of insurance companies you can contact for coverage; that’s exactly the same thing you could have done without paying their fee. Anyone who claims to get your IRS refund for you at a speedier rate is most likely the same as a payday loan; they’ll give you the amount you’re expecting minus a hefty fee for their trouble. Unfortunately, those things are annoying in their shady tactics, but they’re by far not the worst thing that can happen to you if you fall for one of these scams. Other tactics include stealing your personal identifiable information, your money, or both.

In order to protect yourself, you’ve got to do your homework. Before clicking on any offers or ads, investigate the program thoroughly and find out what options you have on your own.

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