Harris says that the investigation began in September, with cease-and-desist notices going out to site operators — some run by private insurance brokers — allegedly attempting to draw customers in with domain names similar to Covered California (coveredca.com), the state’s official healthcare exchange, and which contain unauthorized references to the exchange’s trademarked logo and name.
“These websites fraudulently imitated Covered California in order to lure consumers away from plans that provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” AG Harris said in a statement.
Under state law, individuals and businesses are forbidden from claiming to provide services on behalf of Covered California without securing a valid agreement with the State Exchange. Likewise, California law prohibits solicitations that falsely imply a governmental connection, the use of a domain name that is confusingly similar to another entity, making or disseminating untrue or misleading representations with the intent of selling goods or services, and unfair competition through untrue or misleading advertising.
Harris’s office says that all sites have complied thus far, either by taking down their content or by redirecting to the actual site at CoveredCa.com.
While many of the sites involved in the investigation had URLs that most people would sniff out as sketchy — shopinsuranceexchange.us, smallbusinesshealthoptionsprogram.com — some just as much or more sense than the state’s CoveredCa.com, like the rather obvious coveredcalifornia.com (which is just a blank page now; probably confusing for people who go there thinking it’s the real site).
Harris also issued a warning to California consumers that they should be wary of calls or communications from anyone claiming to be a government official who asks for your personal information like a Social Security number or Medicare card number. Do not give this information to the person, but contact Covered California directly.