PARKERBURG - The attorney general of West Virginia Monday warned residents of a scam against seniors and disabled residents.
The Consumer Protection Division has received hundreds of phone calls from seniors and people with disabilities about individuals seeking personal information, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.
Morrisey on Monday warned residents to be on guard for scams from someone trying to send them a new Medicare card or sign them up for a medical alert system.
"Most people know someone, be it a family member, friend or neighbor, who receives Medicare. Please alert them to these scams so they can be protected and avoid being harmed by a malicious stranger," he said. "Our office will do everything we can to stop these bad actors, but it is up to every one of us to work together to try to stop these thieves in their tracks."
In one scam, the caller claims to be with Medicare or another government office and tells the target their Medicare card is in the mail and should be received in few days. The caller then says they need to establish a direct deposit with a bank so the Medicare funds can be placed in the account.
The caller then asks the person for banking information and for his or her Medicare card number in order to verify the person?s identity in order to receive the new card, Morrisey said. Because a person's Medicare card number often is the same as his or her Social Security number, the caller can use the number to steal the person's identity, he said.
The other scam also targets the elderly and disabled who receive automated calls offering medical alert systems, Morrisey said. The callers "spoof" a local phone number so it looks like a local call on the caller ID, he said.
If the consumer answers the call, they hear an automated message offering a medical alert system or an upgraded system, he said. If the consumer presses "1," they are transferred to a live operator who asks for a bank account number, credit card number and possibly a Medicare number.
The Consumer Protection Division has received more than 90 written complaints and numerous daily phone calls about the two scams since the beginning of the year, Morrisey said.
"Unfortunately dishonest people will always come up with new ways to try to steal money, and even the identities, of honest, hardworking members of our community, but there are certain hallmarks to always be on guard for asking for your bank account number, credit card numbers and any personal identity numbers, such as your Social Security number or Medicare number," Morrisey said. "Even the savviest people occasionally fall victim to these types of calls because the person on the other end of the line can be very convincing."
Morrisey said Medicare information should only be provided to their doctor, doctor's office or others already approved by Medicare, and not given it to anyone over the Internet, the phone or someone who comes to the home uninvited.