Mountain View Voice

News - August 31, 2012

Los Altos senior calls con man's bluff

by Nick Veronin

A Los Altos senior wants her peers in Mountain View and elsewhere to be wary of phone calls they may receive from anyone purporting to be from the Social Security Administration.

The woman said she was recently contacted by an imposter claiming he was from the government agency and asking for her personal information.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she was called around 10 a.m. Aug. 28 by a man claiming to represent the Social Security Administration. He told her the administration would soon be sending out new Medicare cards to seniors, but before she could get hers she would have to provide him with some information, such as the name of her bank.

"The moment he mentioned that he was going to need my bank information, I said, 'Oh, no,'" the woman said. "He hung up immediately."

"These kinds of calls are reported from time to time," said Lowell Kepke, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration's regional office in Richmond. "They are scams."

No one will ever call from the administration asking for personal or banking information over the phone, Kepke said. "We advise people to be very careful when they get a phone call. Social Security representatives won't call and ask for that kind of personal or banking information."

The Social Security Administration is much more likely to reach out via mail or email and request that the beneficiary make an appointment to come into a local branch to provide sensitive personal information, or to call the administration themselves, so that it is the beneficiary initiating the transaction.

Still, he said, the administration receives reports like this one from time to time, and unfortunately, some people have already been duped. "What we find," Kepke said, "is that our beneficiaries, especially elderly beneficiaries, tend to be trustful of the government and social security, and that trust can get them in trouble if they're not careful."

The Los Altos woman was careful, though, according to Kepke. "Your reader did the right thing," he said.

The woman said that the call came from a 408 number. When she reported the fraud, a representative from the Social Security Administration told her they had received numerous similar complaints recently. However, Kepke could not confirm whether there has been a recent spree of similar incidents.

If a Social Security beneficiary is ever concerned or suspicious about a solicitation of any kind, he said, that person should write down the name and contact information of the person claiming to be from the administration, then call the toll-free Social Security number: 1-800-772-1213.

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