Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Freida Lloyd of Jacksonville is no stranger to identity theft or credit card abuse, but a phone call Monday from a stranger saying her husband was getting a new Medicare card was a new attempt to solicit her private information.
“It was a scam phone call,” she said. “The caller asks for the person by name and tells you you're getting a new card.”
Because Lloyd usually deals with their insurance and other important paperwork, she told her husband, Leon, that she would handle the call.
“They had our phone number and asked me to verify our address, and I did – then he said, 'To be sure I am talking to the right person, I need to know what bank you use,'” Lloyd said, adding that when she refused to give out the information, “he just hung up.”
The man had a foreign accent and spoke good English, but his query about the couple's bank account set bells ringing in her head, and when he hung up, Lloyd contacted Medicare.
“Medicare says that when you hear from them, it's by mail, and they only send you a new card if you apply for one,” she said.
Mechele Agbayani Mills, president of the Better Business Bureau in Tyler, which serves Central East Texas, said the call the Lloyds fielded was clearly an attempt at identity theft.
“When it's an unsolicited call, (the caller) should never ask for bank information or personal information,” she said. “What some scam artists do is look through the phone book, searching for names (that might be common for certain generations, like seniors), then they'll call those people and ask for them by name.”
While people may be getting legitimate calls “because it's also Medicare Advantage enrollment time,” they need to use caution in dealing with callers, she said.
“The best way to deal with it is to not answer the phone. I know it sounds ridiculous, but if it's important, the caller will leave a message and a number so that you can call them back,” Mills said. “Because (scammers) have some information on you, it's used to build trust (and) they really try to confuse people on the phone.”
Another concerned resident recently contacted her about a similar situation, and Mills said her office contacted Medicare, who told her they were not issuing new cards to individuals.
“Those were obviously fraudulent calls” Lloyd and the other person received, she said, “because Medicare is not going to do that.”
Mills recommends that if someone happens to pick up and the caller wants personal information, “just hang up, or tell them 'I'm not giving you that information. Don't call here again.' But the safest thing to do is screen your calls.”
She also said not to rely solely on caller ID “because that information is easily spoofed,” but to find out more about the number on the screen. “Again, the best thing to do is to let the caller leave a message with a number. If it's legitimate, call back. If not, don't.”
Lloyd said she hopes that by sharing her experience, others will be more alert to scams from people seeking personal information by phone.