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December 22, 2012

RONN MOTT: Don’t get caught by a phone scam

TERRE HAUTE —

I was coming out of Baesler’s parking lot and had driven about a block when my phone rang. I thought, “Oh my, now she’s calling me to get something from the grocery store and I had just left!” When I said, “Hello,” a voice on the other end, said “Mr. Mott,” and it was a young man with a very heavy Indian accent. (Not Native American, Indian of the country India.) He asked if this was my address and he gave me my former address. It took a little while before I could get him to understand me, and I could hardly understand him at all.

After some confusing conversation, he got through to me he needed to send me a new Medicare card. I thought that was strange since I’ve been getting new information from Social Security at my address for the better part of two years. When I pulled up to my house, I learned he wanted me to identify the last four numbers of my checking account. I told him I never give any banking information to strangers over the telephone. After trying to convince me it was all on the up and up, he said, “I’ll have you speak to my supervisor.”

In the process of getting his supervisor on the line, I could hear a lot of voices, seven or eight, talking to other people about the very same thing. Then, a man with less of an Indian accent got on the phone. I asked him if he was calling from Mumbai, and he said, “No, no, I’m calling from Washington, D.C.” He then said, “We have the last four numbers of your checking account and we merely need you to identify your numbers so we can see if you are the right person we need to send your Medicare card to.”

I explained that I was driving in my car and I didn’t have my checkbook with me. And I do not have the last four numbers of my checking account memorized. I asked him to call me back in one hour and by that time I would be home. He said he would do that very thing.

Of course, I was already home, but an hour would give me time to make some phone calls. The security people at First Financial Bank assured me they never give out any information to anyone for any reason regarding individual accounts. The only way someone could get information about my account would be for me to march in with them and assure the bank it was OK.

Then, I called the fraud line for Medicare and they said I was not getting a card in the mail, but if I was supposed to be receiving a new card, they don’t need any information because they have it all. They said this is a scam, and wanted to know if I had the caller’s phone number. I told them the phone number where this call was placed was blocked to my cell phone. It was a scam.

I thought it stunk, but before I begin to take too much credit, I’m really not smart enough to carry the numbers in my head they wanted. Keep in mind … never give any numbers concerning any accounts at any bank to a person over the telephone. Fortunately for me, I did not.

If you’re a senior citizen, please stay alert. Do not give out that information to anybody, especially if it sounds like he/she is calling you from Mumbai, New Delhi or somewhere in India. A real smart scammer would sound like somebody right next door.

I would like to say we have many excellent people in Terre Haute from India. My doctor is from India, a good doctor and a good man. And I’ve gone to specialists from India and they are good people. These idiots in the boiler room trying to get information out of me never did call back. Having been armed with the information from First Financial Bank and Medicare, it would have been a very intriguing phone call. As it were, it was something to write about and to warn you, the reader, this was going on and it could happen to you.  

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star.

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