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Frank Gray

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Medicare wants bank account number? Scam

Marie Allen of Fort Wayne is on Medicare, which is nothing unusual.

What she wonders, though, is how someone got her name and phone number and knew where she banks. Her name isn’t in the phone book. She doesn’t have a Facebook page.

Still, somehow, someone got their hands on that personal information and called her. The man said Allen was going to be getting a new Medicare card, and he needed to double-check just a little bit of information.

Of course it was all a scam – but with a twist.

People running Medicare scams usually ask people for their Medicare card number. Armed with that number, they can commit all sorts of fraud, filing false medical claims and collecting the payments from the government.

The man who called Allen was looking for something else.

Allen almost immediately smelled something fishy. The man had an accent, and she could hear lots of other voices in the background, as though the man was calling from a telephone boiler room.

The caller asked to verify her address – he knew her address – and asked her into which bank her Social Security payments were deposited.

The man then asked to verify her account number. He had the correct routing number for her checking account, but when he told her what her account number was, he was dead wrong, and Allen let him know it.

Well, the man said, he needed to verify the rest of her bank account number.

Allen refused.

Without the account number, the man said, he wouldn’t be able to issue her new Medicare card.

So what? Allen said. She already has a Medicare card. Why should she need a new one?

Three times the man insisted he needed her account number, finally saying that if he didn’t get it, he would have to cancel her Medicare card.

Allen wouldn’t budge.

There’s no telling what would have happened if Allen had given the caller her bank account number. Perhaps he could have made electronic withdrawals. Maybe he could have emptied her bank account.

Fortunately, Allen was alert enough – and the scammer’s ploy was clumsy enough – that she didn’t fall for it.

Allen called Medicare to report the incident. That agency assured her that if it has to communicate with people regarding their Medicare accounts, the agency never does it by phone. The only reason anyone from Medicare would call someone on the phone would be if a person had called them and had been cut off.

If Allen received a call, though, one can be sure that plenty of other people in the area are getting the same type of scam call.

Oddly enough, just Wednesday morning, Allen said, she got another odd call from a man with an accent claiming her computer had a virus that needed to be removed – for a fee.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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