LITTLE ROCK — State insurance officials on Tuesday urged consumers to be guarded with their personal information and not fall prey to those who may try to take advantage of any confusion surrounding the new health insurance exchange.

The initial enrollment period for the exchange, known as the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, is Oct 1-March 31. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires nearly everyone to have health insurance next year.

"As a consumer protection agency, the Arkansas Insurance Department strives to raise awareness about those falsely claiming to be with the government," state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said in a news release. "I also remind Arkansas insurance consumers to be cautious of scams and protect their personal and financial information."

The agency offered the following tips to avoid being scammed:

—Enrollment begins Oct. 1 and coverage begins Jan. 1, so if anyone promises to provide either ahead of those dates, be wary.

—Do not respond to an unsolicited telephone call, especially one that asks for personal financial information, personal health information or money. There is no fee to create a Health Insurance Marketplace account or enroll for health insurance through the marketplace.

—Do not give your Social Security number, Medicare number, credit card number, or banking information to companies or individuals you did not contact or in response to unsolicited advertisements.

—Scammers sometimes put a slight twist on a popular insurance company name. Remember, just because it sounds like insurance does not mean it is insurance.

—Beware of fake exchanges which are already online and which may pop up during an online search. Often, these are merely sites which collect personal data that may be used to commit identity fraud.

—Write down and keep a record of a salesperson’s name or anyone who may assist you, the company or organization he or she works for, telephone number, time of any telephone call, street address, mailing address, email address and website.

—Stay informed by visiting or

Arkansas is in the process of training licensed insurance agents and brokers and in-person assisters, known as guides or navigators, to assist consumers with enrollment in the exchange. The assisters will be licensed by the Insurance Department, and their names will be listed on the ARHealthConnector website. They will help consumers enroll in the exchange at no charge.

Fraudulent or suspicious activity related to the insurance exchange should be reported to the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Division at (800)852-5494.