WHO’S CALLING?: There has been a recent string of attempts to swindle money from seniors in the area. The con artist who calls explains that a change in Medicare is necessary or that there is a better deal for a one-time payment. Logansport Police investigators advise residents to know who you are talking to before giving out personal information over the phone. (Arnold Ernest/Pharos-Tribune)


Pharos-Tribune staff writer

Someone acting as a Medicare representative recently bilked an 84-year-old Winamac resident, not of money, but of personal information.

A person with an accent called her at her residence and “said they were changing my Medicare to another company.”

To do so, the caller needed certain personal information, such as bank account number, routing number and Social Security number. Not knowing better, she provided the information.

“And I gave it to him,” the 84-year-old said. “After I hung up, I thought this doesn’t sound right.”

She quickly called the sheriff’s department who sent an officer to her residence. The officer advised her that she needed to go to her bank “immediately.”

Things could have gone much worse. So far nothing has happened to her checking account, which is the same account her Medicare premiums are automatically withdrawn from each month.

Thousands of seniors annually are swindled of thousands of dollars. There are ways to prevent this kind of theft, says Logansport Police Detective Lieutenant Ray Bean.

“Personal information like that (Social Security, bank account, etc.) you don’t give to anyone that you haven’t contacted yourself,” Bean said. And besides, “Medicare won’t ever ask for the whole Social Security number or bank account numbers or routing numbers. They already have all that.”

Another local resident recently received similar phone calls. Sixty-eight-year-old Barbara Bowman, Logansport, was offered a new Medicare card that would pay for virtually all medical treatment. All she had to do was give her bank account number and routing number for a one-time payment.

“They tell you they have a brand new Medicare card for you,” Bowman said.

“This won’t be anything like the $80 a month you are paying now,” the caller went on. “There is nothing to worry about. All we need is a one-time payment of $379.”

Bowman kept them talking even though she was not interested. She wanted to get as much information as she could in order to pass it on to other seniors.

She got a phone number: (866) 693-0448. She got the name of the company: National Medical Office in New York. She even got the name of the woman she was talking to: Ask for Thelma Cobb.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the callers use fake names, such as Pharma Corp., Medicare National Office, National Medicare and National Medical Office.

Something else Bowman picked up on was their tactics of befriending her.

“Oh, you have the sweetest voice. You sound just like my mother.”

Bowman responded, “I don’t think I am like your mother.”

Besides the asking for personal information, the reference to sounding like the caller’s mother is what triggered Bowman’s suspicions. She had watched a television program where more than $70,000 was conned from an elderly man because the caller told the man he sounded like his father.

Bowman refused to give the caller what he wanted, but that is not curbing their persistence.

“I finally just hung up,” Bowman said. “But they keep calling back. It sounds like they really want to get people because they figure if you’re older the more that you get these phone calls you will give in.”

That is not the case for Bowman, and the 84-year-old Winamac resident said she has learned her lesson.

“I learned what a dummy I am.”

Kevin Lilly can be reached at 722-5000, Ext. 5117, or via e-mail at kevin.lilly@pharostribune.com

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