COLUMBIA CITY — A Columbia City resident said she received a phone call this week from someone who knew her name and address, but wanted her to give them her Social Security number and where to send her check.
Earlier in the week, a county resident called to report that she had gotten a phone call from someone claiming to be with Medicare and after asking some health-related questions, which the woman verified, asked for her Medicare and Social Security numbers.
One of the women gave her information, and one did not. The one who did has had a family member close out bank accounts and called Social Security and other offices to report the possibility of her information falling into the wrong hands.
David Seymour, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for northeast Indiana, reminds residents to never reply to an e-mail or phone request from someone seeking their personal information. He points out that anyone working for Social Security or Medicare offices is already going to have that number on file and will not have any reason to ask for it.
Seymour warns that scam artists will try a variety of tactics to get your information. He told of an incident in which the caller said that Social Security was experiencing a power outage and needed to verify the person’s information.
“Basically, we advise you to always take precautions when giving out personal information,” Seymour said. “You should never provide your Social Security number or other personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the contact, or are confident of the person to whom you are speaking.
“If in doubt, do not release information without first verifying the validity of the call or asking for a callback number and extension.”
Seymour went on to say that if residents had any doubt at all about someone who claims to be a Social Security representative, they should contact their local Social Security office or calling Social Security’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the legitimacy of the call. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)
In a separate local incident, a third woman was concerned she was being scammed when an insurance company called for an appointment to discuss changes in Medicare, then missed it, and tried to reschedule. The woman believed the man was acting as a Medicare representative, and felt he was not being upfront about his intentions.
Whether this call was legitimate or not is unknown, but misleading advertising is another tactic of scammers, Seymour said.
“Often, these companies offer Social Security services for a fee, even though the same services are available directly from Social Security free of charge,” Seymour said.
Seymour said these services include getting a:
• corrected Social Security card showing a bride’s married name;
• Social Security card to replace a lost card;
• Social Security Statement; and
• Social Security number for a child.
He also said that some direct scammers suggest that Social Security is in dire financial shape and that people risk losing their Social Security or Medicare benefits unless they send a contribution or membership fee to the advertiser.
Anyone who believes they have received misleading advertising for Social Security services should send the complete mailing, including the envelope, to: Office of the Inspector General, Fraud Hotline, Social Security Administration, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235. Also, advise your State’s attorney general or consumer affairs office and the Better Business Bureau.