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Obamacare website could be putting people at risk of identity theft

Dec 12, 2018 Dave King

The website for the health care exchanges provided by the Affordable Care Act has been experiencing troubles since the day it launched. For example, many people have been unable to sign up for health insurance because the website has been down.

A new problem seems to be arising, as Reuters reported that Healthcare.gov may not be secure enough to protect personal information, potentially creating an identity theft risk for anyone who signs up for coverage.

Four experts testified at a hearing in front of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and said it is not secure. Three of them said the site should be shut down, while the fourth said more information is needed before that decision is made.

Whether or not it is shut down for security improvements, people could already be at risk. For this reason, financial institutions such as short term lenders need to step up ID verification procedures to be sure that applicants aren't using stolen names to obtain a loan.

Why is it important to prevent identity theft?
This crime may not be on the radar of many Americans, but it should be because it has many serious consequences. For one, people could see significant damage to their consumer credit scores.

"Long term, there should be no damage to your credit from ID theft," said Barry Paperno, the community manager for Credit.com. "But in the short run, you could lose more than 100 points from your score and not regain all of them until after the fraudulent credit information is removed from your credit report, which could take weeks, and in some complex cases even months."

What can be done to avoid this crime?
In addition to stepping up ID verification procedures, financial institutions might want to provide people with guidance as to how they can prevent identity theft.

- Never write down passwords: To protect personal information, consumers often have to password-protect accounts. Whether this is for online banking or a retail website, the National Crime Prevention Council said people should never write down these codes, instead it's better to commit them to memory.

- Shred documents: People who still receive bank statements and other bills that include account numbers and other personal information need to be sure to dispose of these documents properly. Simply throwing them in the trash is not enough. To ensure thieves don't go through the trash, consumers need to remember to shred documents before trashing them.