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Scam targets Medicare recipients

Jack Boggs has a simple warning for seniors and anyone else contacted by callers wanting personal information: Don’t give it to them.

Boggs, of Ironton, received a call Friday morning from someone claiming to offer a free health care card, if Boggs would verify his identity by providing his bank routing and account numbers.

“I said ‘I think this is a scam and I’m not going to give you that information,’” Boggs said. “They said ‘no, it’s not.’ He insisted that I give him that information. I said I would call a couple of federal offices and do some checking.”

Boggs called the FBI office in Ohio and a couple of media outlets to inform them of the phone call.

“I was just concerned about other people that are so prone to giving out information,” Boggs said. “(The caller) knew I was on Medicare. Our information is being bought and sold every day.”

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray’s Office announced in April that a similar scan was targeting Medicare recipients in Ohio. To date, Cordray’s office has received 58 complaints of callers claiming to be from Medicare and seeking personal information, spokeswoman Kim Kowalski confirmed. The scammers told consumers they needed their bank account information to issue a new benefits card and also threatened to terminate the person’s benefits if they did not provide that information.

Cordray offered the following tips to avoid phone scams:

Don’t give out personal information such as bank account or social security number over the phone.

Guard your credit card number. Unless you are certain that you are dealing with a reputable organization and you initiated the call yourself, do not give your credit card number over the phone.

Take your time. If someone tells you to “act now” or to keep the transaction a secret, be skeptical. Don’t be pressured into making a rash decision. Talk to trusted family members and friends for advice.

Get information in writing. Demand that callers send you written information before you send any money. If they refuse, don’t trust them. Under Ohio’s Telephone Solicitation Sales Act, a purchase is not valid until the telemarketer receives written confirmation from the consumer. Once you get written information, review it carefully and make sure the company has a physical address —not just a P.O. Box. Verify that the address is real.

Do your research. Check a company’s reputation by contacting the Ohio Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau before doing business with them. Before doing business with any company, verify that they are registered with the Secretary of State to do business in Ohio. Go to www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/businessServices.aspx

Don’t pay to play. No purchase is required to enter or win a contest, except for state lottery sales and licensed nonprofit charities.

Be wary of requests for money orders or wire transfers. If you receive a request to wire transfer money to another country, be careful. Many victims of foreign lottery scams and advance fee loan scams are instructed to send money via wire transfer, because wire transferring is fast, and transfer agents are available in most communities.

Watch out for phony insurance plans. Some of the worst scams involve the sale of identity theft insurance, telemarketing fraud prevention plans and phony medical plans. Before you sign up, contact the Ohio Department of Insurance to make sure a company is licensed to sell insurance in Ohio.

When in doubt, hang up the phone. If something seems fishy, it probably is.