ELYRIA — Elyria neighborhood watch captain Polly Onderko is warning residents to be careful after her friend was scammed by a woman pretending to work for Medicare.
The woman, a 77-year-old Elyria resident who did not want to be named, said she received a call from a woman with a foreign accent who said she was issuing new Medicare cards and needed her Social Security number.
The fake Medicare representative recited the Elyria woman’s name, address and phone number, and although the Elyria woman said she is usually very cautious, she said the representative sounded official.
“She asked me who I do my banking with … then I realized it was a scam,” she said.
The woman said she contacted Medicare shortly after the call, and representatives told her they never initiate phone calls, especially of that nature.
“This is supposed to be common knowledge. I don’t know why I gave it to her, but I did,” she said, adding that she was embarrassed about the incident.
Sgt. Don Barker said scams like this are common, however, and hard to investigate by the department as many scams occur out of the country.
Most common, Barker said, are those who get information by posing as that person’s bank. He has also received reports from those who have met someone online and were asked to send money overseas and from people who were scammed by suspects stating they had won a prize but must send money to receive it.
According to a police report, an 82-year-old Lorain woman was scammed out of $800 from someone posing as a representative of Publishers Clearing House in May.
The man claimed his name was Henry Delores and told the woman that she had won money, but he would need $800 to process the transaction. The woman sent the money to a Charles Hagerman in Oklahoma and was supposed to meet the man at the airport to obtain her money, but he never showed.
She later received another call from a man claiming he was a detective who captured Delores, but he said he needed $2,000 in order to send her the $2 million owed to her. The woman then hung up the phone and called police.
According to Capt. Jim Drozdowski, of the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, senior citizens are most likely to be targeted in scams because they are more trusting on the Internet, and also more likely to use their Social Security number.
“They used to use Social Security numbers all the time, so many older residents automatically do that,” he said.
Drozdowski said older residents also are embarrassed that they have fallen for a hoax and often don’t report it.
“Don’t be embarrassed. Talk to people, because you can lose everything, bank accounts … everything you’ve worked for,” he said.
Drozdowski said scams are common among all ages and the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office often holds forums to inform the public on how to avoid scams. He offered some tips to avoid these hoaxes.
“Banks will never ask you for information online,” he said. “Call your bank or ask them if you have questions.”
Sheriff Phil Stammitti recommends checking credit ratings once a year through www.annualcreditreport.com and routinely watching billing statements for unlawful purchases.
Barker said to be wary of online purchases, although most credit cards offer some type of identity theft protection. He added that if someone calls from a bank or a company asking for personal information, the person should call their bank or the company to verify the information before providing any of their own.
Barker said people should also trust their instincts.
“If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” he said.
An identity theft lecture will be 11 a.m. Oct. 3 at the Spitzer Center of Lorain County Community College. Sheriff Phil Stammitti said classes are often held at the request of the public through the Sheriff’s Office.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.