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A cautionary tale about scams

July 11, 2013
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

When I answered the phone last week, the caller, a woman with a thick Indian accent, said, "This is the Medicare Department calling with an important announcement for all senior citizens."

The caller explained Medicare was issuing new cards for all its seniors. In preparation for the change, they were verifying some basic information. With that, she read my former address and asked me to confirm it.

Red flags went up in my mind at the beginning of the call. Now they were waving wildly. After all, I had notified all our individual, organization and business contacts of our change of address soon after moving. That included Social Security and Medicare.

Now alert, I decided to continue the conversation just to see where this bogus call was heading. I gave the caller my new address, then waited.

Next, she said, "Now, I need to confirm the bank you do business with."

Aha, I thought, here it comes. I didn't ask why Medicare would need such information. Instead, I decided simply giving the name of my bank wouldn't provide access to my accounts. To keep the talk going, I gave my bank's name.

Then, she said, "I need to confirm a few numbers. Please get your checkbook and go over this information with me."

I said, as casually as I could, "I really like to know who I'm speaking with. Would you please give me your name?"

She hesitated, then said, "Uh, it's Nancy."

Although this heavily accented woman certainly didn't sound like a "Nancy," I continued the conversation with, "Actually I don't need to get my check book. I know my numbers."

She stressed, "We'd really like to have you read the numbers with us. Please get your check book."

Again I stressed, "No, I've memorized my banking numbers, so there's no need."

There was a long pause at the other end of the line, then "Nancy" quietly hung up.

Here in Florida, we live in an area with a high concentration of seniors. And, unfortunately, this brings with it a high incidence of scams against the elderly. I was certain my conversation with "Nancy" was an attempt at one of these.

I immediately phoned the Medicare hot line to report the call.

The agent I spoke with confirmed this Medicare scam is currently being tried all across the nation.

"It's so pervasive that the Attorney General is working on it right now," she said. She asked if I'd be willing to file a report.

Of course, that's exactly what I did.

But, since I've heard nothing about this particular scam in the media, I wanted to do my small part to give out a warning to you, my friends.

According to the FBI, there are dozens of frauds being used nationwide every day, many of them especially targeting the elderly. From the infamous "Nigerian letter," to identity theft, health care frauds to telemarketing schemes, funeral frauds to pyramid schemes, investment frauds to cemetery schemes - and on and on.

But these activities will only succeed if we cooperate.

In order to foil these plans, it's absolutely vital we keep our guard up and never give out personal information to anyone unless we can be certain they are legitimate.

Remember, no agency of the government, no utility company, no bank, no reputable business will ask you for personal information over the phone or on the internet.

And, if you ever have any suspicions, get the caller's - or internet entity's - name and contact information. Then get in touch with the legitimate business or agency and check out that individual.

Remember, the next phone call you get could be from "Nancy" or one of her pals. Be prepared and don't be taken in.



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