Fraudulent Calls that Don’t Make Sense

I am going to present a few fraudulent phone call scenarios that exist in the real world and that claim numerous victims, and you see if you can determine what the scammers are doing that actually doesn’t make sense if you stop and think about it:

  1. A caller claims to be a Social Security Administration representative calls and warns you that your benefits are about to be suspended because of some problem or other. The caller ID shows the correct SSA customer service line. She needs you to verify your Social Security number in order to fix the issue.
  2. A caller claims to represent a credit card company. He says that your card has been deactivated due to suspicious activity. In order to get your card working again, he needs the card number, expiration date, and three-digit code from the back of the card.
  3. A caller claims to be a Medicare representative and informs you that your benefits are going to be suspended because of an issue. Before he can fix the problem, he needs you to verify your Medicare ID number.

Did you catch it?

In every case, the caller is asking for a piece of information that the claimed agency or company would already have…because they created that piece of information in the first place.

  • The Social Security Administration has your Social Security number. They’re the ones who assigned it to you.
  • Your credit card company assigned your card number and other details to you. They already know it.
  • Medicare already knows your ID number because they gave you that number. If there’s a problem with your account, it’s one piece of information they don’t need.

(You could also make the more general observation that these all involve a stranger attempting to alarm you and then asking for personal information, but these specific questions should really tip you off that the caller is not who he or she claims to be.)

Fraud Alert: beware of callers who claim to represent Medicare.

Last week, a member of our credit union had a close call with a Medicare scam.

The member received a phone call from someone who claimed to be from Medicare. The caller stated that they were going to issue the member a new Medicare card, and needed the member’s account and routing number to proceed.

As soon as the member revealed this information, the line went dead. Sensing trouble, the member immediately called REGIONAL and had alerts placed on the account before any fraudulent withdrawals could occur.

I think this is what they call a “teachable moment.”

First, Medicare is never going to call you asking for your financial account information, nor would they need this in order to issue new cards.

However, I know these people can be convincing on the phone, and when someone is telling you your Medicare could be cut off, it’s hard not to react.

So that’s the other lesson today: if you get that sinking feeling seconds after a phone call or revealing information on a website, call the affected financial institution immediately to have your account locked down (and, ideally, start the process of closing the account and opening a new one with a different number).

If you’ve revealed more than just an account number and are concerned about identity theft, call the three credit reporting agencies right away and have identity theft alerts placed on your credit reports:

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian:  1-888-EXPERIAN

Even though you could just call one of the above, and the other two will have the information within 24 hours, go ahead an call all three yourself, just to make sure.

The faster you act, the less chance the bad guys have of harming you.