FTC cracks down on ‘Obamacare’ spammers

ID-100128578As most of us know, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare,” didn’t go as smoothly as people might have hoped. Along with the website issues, there was some confusion about what was required of consumers and when. Spammers took advantage of that confusion to scare people into clicking links they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

At least one of those spammers is in trouble from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is taking action against a website that sent out emails before the ACA rollout, falsely claiming consumers would be violating federal law if they didn’t immediately click to sign up for health insurance.

In the first FTC case against ACA-related fraud, Kobeni Inc. and its president, Yair Shalev, is alleged to have sent out emails from at least May 2013 through August 2013, containing statements such as, “Today is the deadline to make your election or be in violation of federal law,” “Must Receive Your Election Or You Will Be In Violation of Federal Law,” “Effective Monday (08-05-13) health coverage is REQUIRED BY LAW,” and “You Must Select One of These 5 Options.”

Links in the emails led to websites with ads for insurance.  The websites’ operators paid the defendants when consumers clicked links contained in the ads.  Insurance companies whose ads were on the websites did not authorize the messages in the emails.

The FTC is charging the defendants with violating the FTC Act by falsely stating consumers would violate federal law if they did not select health insurance by the dates in their email messages.  The complaint also alleges the defendants violated the CAN-SPAM Act by not providing consumers who received the spam email messages with a clear and conspicuous notice that they had the right to opt out of receiving future commercial email messages from the defendants, and by sending commercial email messages that did not include the sender’s physical postal address.