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Lebanon Woman Reports Medicare Scam Aimed at Seniors

Lebanon — The person on the phone said he was from Medicare and would be sending Lebanon resident Margaret Howard a new card. But first, he wanted to verify some personal information.

Howard wasn’t buying it.

“When he said, ‘What is the name of your bank?’ I said, ‘This is fraud,’ and he hung up,” said Howard, a 75-year-old resident of Lebanon Towers on Hanover Street.

Monday’s call was the third one like it that Howard has received in the past month. Her caller ID said the first came from Florida and the two subsequent calls were placed from Massachusetts. Howard has since posted signs around her building and warned neighbors about the scam.

“People need to know,” she said.

Telephone scams seeking to take advantage of seniors pop up regularly, though Howard’s is the first report that Lebanon police Chief Gary Smith has heard since late spring. Back in May and June, two residents reported that they’d received calls about new Medicare cards, Smith said. And just like with Howard, the callers asked for bank information. One of the seniors provided her checking account number, but avoided losing money after she alerted her bank following the phone call, Smith said.

Law enforcement officials, the Better Business Bureau and senior advocates nationwide have reported Medicare scams this year. Attorneys general from Maine to Minnesota have issued warnings not to provide any financial information over the telephone.

The New Hampshire Office of the Attorney General receives complaints of fraudulent Medicare calls all the time, said James Boffetti, senior assistant attorney general and chief of the consumer protection bureau.

“These things are just ubiquitous,” Boffetti said. “You should not be responding to any unsolicited calls asking for personal information... If it’s unsolicited, it’s almost guaranteed to be a fraud or scam.”

Seniors who receive such phone calls should notify police or the Attorney General’s Office immediately, Boffetti said. These cases are difficult to investigate, Boffetti said, as technological advances allow scam artists to cover their tracks. But in reporting them, at least law enforcement can warn the community.

“If they don’t tell us about it, it’s tough for us to do anything,” Smith said. “It’s one of those deals where it’s hard to pursue. So we work hard at educating people so they don’t lose any money.”

Reports of fraudulent phone calls can be made to New Hampshire’s consumer protection hotline at 888-468-4454.

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.

Related

Letter: Scammers Target Seniors

Monday, November 11, 2013

To the Editor: There was a recent phone scam in the Upper Valley that needs to be taken seriously. Your story in the Oct. 24 edition described an elderly woman in Lebanon who was the target of a Medicare scam aimed at gaining her personal information and possibly stealing her money. This article gained my attention because I have noticed, …