A dangerous insurance scam is sweeping the nation, targeting citizens most in need of medical coverage. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud is warning people about phony companies who promise all sorts of benefits at a low cost, but fail to deliver and leave people owing thousands in medical bills.

Those being targeted? Small businesses, individual consumers and families, senior citizens and new immigrants.

These bogus insurers are getting business by telemarketing, e-mailing and using ads on telephone polls, bulletin boards and even on television. In these difficult economic times with so many people out of work, it's easy for people to fall prey to these types of scams. It's estimated some 12,000 Americans have already been victimized by fraudulent insurance companies.

The Coalition says the best way to avoid being scammed and getting the coverage you're promised: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Never simply sign up for the best sounding deal without looking into what you're really getting. If you're asked to join a trade association or union in order to get benefits, it's most likely a scam. Always get a copy of your entire policy, not simply a summary and contact your state insurance department to double check the validity of a company you're not familiar with.

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