'When you smell a skunk, you smell a skunk': Kearns woman warns others of phone scam involving Medicare

Published: Monday, Nov. 25 2013 3:52 p.m. MST

The Social Security Administration's main campus is seen in Woodlawn, Md., Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

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KEARNS — Here's some advice for scammers: Throw away Margaret Thompson's phone number. She's not falling for it.

"You know, when you smell a skunk, you smell a skunk. It doesn't matter if it has a yellow stripe, it's still a skunk," Thompson said.

That may sound like old-fashioned advice coming from a 71-year-old woman, but even in today's high-tech world it still works.

Thompson was minding her own business Nov. 19 when someone claiming to be from Social Security called her Kearns home.

“He says they're changing your Medicare card, and we need to update our data so we get it correctly,” Thompson said. “He says, ‘I have no way of knowing you're Margaret Thompson,’ and I said, ‘That’s OK. I have no way of knowing you're from Social Security.’"

What made the call believable, though, is the caller had Thompson's banking routing number. Then, he asked for her bank account number.

"And I said, ‘Oh, no. I don't do that.’ Flags were waving. He says, ‘Ma'am, I need it because when we change these cards, those are going to be your new identification numbers.’ And I said, ‘This doesn’t make any sense. I could change banks tomorrow, and those numbers would be useless.'"

Thompson told the man no and asked for his supervisor. She said the call continued for nearly 15 minutes.

“He got just instantly angry. (He said), ‘Ma’am, do you realize I can cut off all your Social Security? You won't get your check next month, and I can cancel all of your Medicare program. All I have to do is push this button,’” Thompson said.

“And I said, ‘Fine. You push that button because I’m going to call Medicare.’ And he hung up," she said.

Thompson called Medicare and found out it was a scam. They suggested she call police, her bank, the phone company to trace the caller, and the media to get the word out.

“It was just a bad feeling up my spine,” she said. “I want this to come to an end. I want it stopped. I’m tired of people being hurt.”

The Social Security Administration released the following statement: "If Social Security calls a person, our employees will always identify themselves as Social Security employees and will indicate the purpose of their call."

If a member of the public receives a call from someone claiming to be a Social Security employee and it seems at all suspicious, the public can ask the caller for his or her name, work location and telephone number. To confirm if the call is legitimate, they can hang up and call Social Security at 800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday to verify.

Banks have a routing number, which will be the same for all of that particular bank's customers. It’s easy for anyone to get a bank’s routing number. A scammer will then call people until a customer from that bank is found.

“This was totally believable, and he had enough information to begin with that I really thought he was real,” Thompson said, “until he wanted the rest of my banking information, and I thought, 'You creep! I’m not giving it to you.'”

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com

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