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California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday she has forced the removal of 10 private health insurance websites posing as the state's official online marketplace where customers obtain plans under the federal Affordable Care Act.

"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 prepared statement. "My office will continue to investigate and shut down these kinds of sites. I urge Californians to avoid healthcare scams by visiting coveredca.com."

Harris said her office two months ago launched investigations into the websites imitating coveredca.com, which began offering insurance coverage for sale on Oct. 1. The website operators were sent cease and desist letters telling them their sites violated state law and demanding their removal or transfer of their domains to the state exchange.

The sites were being run by private insurance brokers or companies, carried domain names similar to the state's health exchange and contained unauthorized references to the exchange's trademarked logo and name. Examples such as californiabenefitexchange.com, californiahealthbenefitexchange.com and www.coveredcalifornia.com contained phrases like "Get Covered," "Covered California" and "California Health Benefit Advisers."

All of the sites contracted complied with the attorney general's demand.

Harris also warned customers to watch out for websites or telephone solicitors claiming to work for the government and asking for personal information. Covered California has issued several similar fraud warnings since the launch of its online portal.

Contact Covered California at consumerprotection@covered.ca.gov.

PHOTO: An example of what one of the websites in question looked like before it was shut down or redirected to coveredca.com. Courtesy of the Attorney General's Office.



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