Medicare card scam asks for bank, Social Security information
“Do I have a scam for you!”
That was one of the phone messages waiting for me when I arrived for work one morning last month, the day after we published my Sunday column announcing the introduction of our new weekly feature, “Scam of the Week” (July 28: “Under siege by scammers? Tell us about it”).
Sure, I thought to myself, ever the skeptical journalist. That’s what they are all going to say.
As it turns out, the caller wasn’t exaggerating. Not only that, but she was one of two people to contact us that day about this blatant telephone scam aimed at older folks on Medicare – one that not so coincidentally has prompted renewed warnings of late from regional Better Business Bureaus across the country.
Several weeks ago, Johannah Miller of Albuquerque received a telephone call from a man who claimed to be responsible for sending out new Medicare cards.
According to Miller, the conversation went something like this:
Caller : Is this Johannah Miller?
Miller : Yes.
Caller : I’m calling from Washington, D.C., and we are going to be issuing a new Medicare card. Do you live at …
Miller : Yes.
Caller : What’s the name of your bank?
Miller : Why don’t you tell me?
Caller : I’m here to verify information from you; you’re not to verify information from me.
Miller : You know, this sounds like a scam.
Caller : (Click).
End of story? Not so fast.
The next day, she says, her husband, Lewis, received a similar call, asking such personal questions as the name of his bank – he had some fun with the caller by saying it was the Predators and Defaulters National Bank – and whether the routing number on his bank account starts with a “0-1” or “1-0.”
When her husband asked, “Where are you calling from,” the caller hung up.
Unfortunately, not all of these phishing expeditions for personal financial information have such a happy ending.
The second person to contact us about this scam – this one by email – told the sad tale about his 74-year-old sister, who had been persuaded to disclose personal information to the caller, including details about her checking account.
Apparently, they aren’t the only ones to have been targeted in the Albuquerque region of late.
Connie Quillen, executive assistant of the Albuquerque-based Better Business Bureau Serving New Mexico and Southwest Colorado, says her office is receiving several calls a week related to two variations of this Medicare scam.
Essentially, she says, Medicare recipients are being told their new card is ready, but there is a $50 fee to get it. They also are being asked to reveal their Social Security and bank routing numbers.
Quillen says there are no circumstances under which Medicare would call someone and ask those type of personal questions.
“Medicare already knows your information,” she says. “They know your Medicare number. They know your Social (Security number). They know everything.”
When her office takes a call from someone who admits to releasing bank account information, callers immediately are advised to contact their bank and freeze their account.
If they disclose their Social Security number, they are advised to put a fraud alert on their number by contacting one of the three major credit-reporting companies: Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (1-888-397-3742) or TransUnion (1-800-680-7289).
Quillen says another option is to go online to AnnualCreditReport.com and request a fraud alert be placed on your file. You also should request a free credit report to make sure there hasn’t been any suspicious activity on your accounts.
The Federal Trade Commission also recommends that you file a report with your local police department and with the FTC either online or by calling 1-877-438-4338.
Better yet, you can make like the Millers and avoid having to go through this process altogether.
Nick Pappas is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-823-3847 or on Twitter at @nickpapp if you are aware of what sounds like a scam in the area. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-800-678-1508.