Scammers prey on elderly

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

Scammers have preyed upon people's uncertainties about Medicare changes with the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Tuolumne and Calaveras county law enforcement officials have each gotten calls about phone scams since July, dispatch logs show.

Eleanor Ruiz, of Sonora, was called and realized something was off.

She explained that a woman with a heavy accent, possibly from Jamaica, called and said "you are going to receive a new Medicare card in relation to changes from Obamacare."

Ruiz said the woman asked her to prove she was indeed Eleanor Ruiz.

She verified her name, address and telephone number with her - information the woman seemed to already have access to.

Then, the woman asked who Ruiz banks with. Ruiz became suspicious and asked where the woman was calling from.

She quickly said, "You no longer qualify for Social Security," and hung up.

"That'll give any senior a real start!" Ruiz said.

She wrote down the number that called her: 305-890-1654.

An automated message says the number is no longer in service.

A website that opens a forum for commenting on telephone numbers, www.800notes.com, has 13 complaints related to this number. Most complain of callers, often barely speaking English, claiming to be from various government agencies, most commonly Medicare.

Some comments describe the callers going into frighteningly detailed banking information as well as asking for money.

Tuolumne County Public Health Officer Dr. Todd Stolp said these are not Medicare representatives.

"Medicare sometimes does surveys, asking for opinions, but will never ask for payment information," he said.

Ruiz contacted local law enforcement and Social Security representatives, who said the agency was "well aware" of the scams.

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The Union Democrat
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