RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A warning tonight from 12 on Your Side -- someone is making false calls to seniors pretending to be from a government agency, but what they're really trying to do is steal their money.
The best weapon against fraud, especially elder fraud, is a savvy consumer and Betty Sperisen fits that description. Betty was so well informed and shrewd, the caller hung up and never called back.
The 76-year-old isn't shy about telling her age or her amusing story of how she spotted a scam and scared away the scammer.
"I know how they prey on senior citizens. So many of us, when we get a certain age we just think that it's true but it's not," she said.
Betty doesn't know how the crook selected her or got her phone number but the call had troubling signs. He called her by her maiden name which she hasn't used in years. He pretended to be in a position of authority telling Betty he was calling from Medicare and that she was lucky and chosen and it wouldn't cost her a thing.
"He said, 'You have been with Medicare so long that you get a free scooter.' I said 'What?' He said, 'You get a free scooter,'" Betty recalled. "I said, 'I'm not disabled.' He said, 'It doesn't matter. You can keep it until you get disabled.'"
Telemarketing fraud robs consumers of $40 billion a year according to the American Association of Retired Persons and more than half of those losing their money are seniors to telemarketing fraud and phishing calls to trick you into giving up personal and banking information.
"I want the senior citizens to know what's going on and please don't give any information over the phone, because Social Security doesn't work that away," said Betty.
- Medicare won't call, unless you've contacted them and asked for a return call.
- Be suspicious of bargains, free offers, investment opportunities that come unsolicited by mail, phone or the internet.
- Never give out your social security number, banking numbers over the phone to strangers.
- Don't expect something for nothing.
"I was a little too smart for him. When I said I was going to call Social Security he said I'll call you back. He knew I was too smart to fall for his game," Betty said.
If you got scammed on a call like that call police. Also, tell the Social Security office of the Inspector General Fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271. If you get a call like that it's best to just hang up but, some seniors are too polite and can't. So the longer they're on the phone, the greater the risk of losing their money.