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Scams reportedly targeting Medicare recipients targeted

The local Better Business Bureau is warning residents about yet another pair of scams.

Judy Strawderman is state director of community relations for the Better Business Bureau office in Canton, Ohio, which covers West Virginia.

She said her office has been inundated with calls over the past few weeks concerning high-pressure telephone scams targeting the elderly and others.

The caller offers to send seniors new Medicare cards, including cards that offer extra benefits, and then asks for bank information. 

The scam is occurring as many seniors are up for renewal in the Medicare Part B program, Strawderman said. She said seniors should not be contacted by telephone for that.

"What we have is someone taking advantage of this," she said. "The elderly are receiving a lot of this type of information in the mail; they know they need to respond.

"They believe these are perfectly legitimate calls. They're not," she said. 

She said older Americans are used to doing things on a "trust basis" and some are easily intimidated.

"They tell them they need to have this information or they're going to lose their benefits," she said. "These people are very adept at getting information. They ask you to confirm the information they have by reading it to them.

"But it's just as easy for us to say, 'Well, why don't you tell me what you have and we'll see if it's right.' "

  She said if those callers get a person's information, it can be used for identity theft.

"These individuals can be very aggressive, often calling many times and at all hours of the day to wear down potential victims," Frank Cilona, CEO of the Better Business Bureau, said in a release.

"They may have limited information about the person that's easily obtained from public databases that they use to make the call seem legitimate."

Phone numbers and other personal information is easily found on the Internet.

Strawderman's office also has received complaints of high-pressure calls from debt collectors. People are receiving calls at home and work. Sometimes, the debt doesn't even exist.

"They tell them if they don't pay this debt, which they may or may not have, they're going to be arrested in 24 to 48 hours," Strawderman said. "The U.S. Marshal's not going to come down; the Charleston police aren't going to arrest you.

"You could have a lien placed against you, but our law enforcement have better things to do than to arrest you for not paying a bill."

She said the callers put heavy pressure on their prey, telling them if they don't pay the bill they could be visited in the next few hours, even at work, by police or debt collectors. The threat of public humiliation is powerful. 

Strawderman said people should not provide any additional information to callers.

"You can turn the tables on them by asking them to provide proof of the debt, but never, ever give them any information," she said.

Strawderman said to combat these scams, residents could simply hang up on the callers or call her office, the state Attorney General's Office or the Federal Trade Commission.

The Better Business Bureau hotline is 1-800-362-0494.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.


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