Beware of a phone call from someone claiming to be a representative of Medicare. In reality they're just trying to steal your identity.
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has raised the warning, saying he's received reports from citizens of his state, and has learned that seniors in neighboring Kentucky have also been targeted.
The scheme targeting Medicare seniors relies on the telephone, not the Internet. The fraudulent phone calls -- identified as originating from 866-234-2255 -- claim to represent a Medicare or Social Security Office and ask consumers for personal information so that new Medicare cards can be issued.
When people refuse to provide the requested information, a phony supervisor comes on the line to say that the information must be provided to remain enrolled in the Medicare program. The thieves then use information collected to steal victims' identities and remove funds from accounts through checks or electronic transactions.
McGraw says a call to the 866 number used by the Medicare scammers as their caller ID reaches a recording confirming that it is being used in the Medicare spoof.
McGraw says consumers should check caller ID on incoming calls and avoid giving out personal information including policy numbers, date of birth, social security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information over the phone or on the internet - especially when speaking with or replying to email from strangers.
"Be suspicious of any requests you get asking for personal or financial data," McGraw said. "Never offer information. Always verify the identity of the person on the other end of the phone or emailing you. And remember that scammers will typically just hang up if confronted or threatened with a call to the police or attorney general."
Thieves use similar methods for a tax refund scam in which fake IRS phone calls or emails ask for personal and banking information so that the consumer supposedly can receive an additional tax refund. McGraw reminds consumers that the IRS does not solicit personal information via e-mail. McGraw said it's just the latest scam that is targeting senior citizens.