Several local seniors were reported to have been victims of a nationwide Medicare scam recently, some losing up to $450, according to a spokesperson for the Eastern Utah Community Credit Union, where the thefts occurred.
"These situations began trickling in a few at a time several weeks ago, now they are peaking this week," said Jennifer Crisp, a member service representative at the credit union. "Many of these people are just plain embarrassed and humiliated that something like this happened. They've been told over and over not to give out information over the phone, and they know not to, but when the callers specifically asked them not to give them a social security number, I think they felt safer about it."
Evidently, calls were placed to some elderly citizens of Price, indicating more information was needed to keep them enrolled in the new Medicare program.
The callers claimed that the victims would also not need to provide a social security number, just specific bank routing information. If they refused, though, they were told - in no uncertain terms - they would be dropped from the health care program.
Once this information was obtained, funds were removed from the respective accounts. Funds were withdrawn either by check or electronic transactions.
Because of quick action by both the victims of the scam and the credit union, however, the money has since been replaced. Not everyone is so lucky in these situations, though.
"This is a nationwide con that specifically targets the elderly," Crisp said. "No one contacts a person with a phone call for this kind of information; it's usually requested by letter. But the seniors involved here said the callers were very insistent upon 'taking them off Medicare' if they did not comply."
Fortunately, some seniors said they felt "badgered" and "brow-beaten" by the callers (who were described as having "foreign-sounding" accents and seemed to be "far away") and did not divulge information. One woman who finally did give out her bank information hung up and immediately hit *69 to redial.
When one does this, a message is heard saying, "Medicare scammers are spoofing this number (1-866-234-2255). If you receive a call with this ID, please contact your attorney general or FCC as soon as possible."
"Most of these victims told me the callers were very forceful and pressuring," Crisp added. "Some members contacted us right away and we were able to stop the scammers.
"But these people are also sneaky. Once they get the routing numbers, they keep trying to withdraw funds. Sometimes, as a last resort, we just have to close the account and start a new one."
To keep track of those accounts which may have been compromised the EUCCU has instituted several procedures, including working with the account holders personally, issuing fraud alerts, clearing the good checks and monitoring the situation as closely as possible.
According to Crisp, personal information should never be given over the phone. If someone does receive a similar call, hang up and contact the authorities immediately.
If one happens to give out financial information by accident or under pressure, Crisp advises to contact their banking institution as soon as possible.
"Don't wait," she added. "It takes just a short time to begin taking out funds. A quick response can save a lot of trouble and heartache."