Anyone who reads this column regularly knows that phones call asking for personal information are an immediate red flag of a scam.
But what about when the caller knows some, or even a lot, of your personal information already? And what if they're claiming to represent a program you recently signed up for and know specific details related to it?
That's the situation Hesperia resident San Arnold found herself in recently, and it sounds like she's not the only one.
Arnold said she received a call from a number that popped up as "City of San Bernardino" on her caller ID. The caller new her name and birth date, as well as the fact that she would be eligible for Medicare soon.
According to Arnold, the caller "proceeded to provide me with all of my personal info and claimed to be with Medicare." He even knew the correct information about what Medicare and Medi-Cal cover.
"He seemed legitimate," Arnold said.
That is, until he informed Arnold that if she provided him with her Social Security number "he would provide me with additional information about additional benefits" she would be entitled to.
"I told him if he really was from Medicare he should already have that information," Arnold said, "and then he promptly hung up on me."
When Arnold called the number back — 909-384-7272 — she got an office with the City of San Bernardino and, after recalling the phone call she just received, she was told that it was a scam they were aware of.
"They informed me the number has been spoofed and the person (calling) me and many others is not from Medicare and their office wouldn't call anyone about their Medicare benefits anyway," Arnold said.
As it turns out, Arnold was one of several residents who'd received the Medicare call and called the number back, only to get a city employee on the other end who knew nothing about the matter.
Monica Lagos, who serves as the manager of communications for the San Bernardino city manager's office, said staff had been made aware of the scam and was working to eliminate it.
“The City of San Bernardino is actively looking into the situation," Lagos said. "Although the call appears to originate from the city’s main phone number, city employees do not represent Medicare and would never initiate a call requesting personal information such as a Social Security number.
"We appreciate the public bringing this to our attention and ask them to report fraudulent calls to 1-877-FTC-HELP.”
For her part, Arnold said she's been inundated by calls soliciting HMO plans and thought this was just another one of those calls. But she's glad she called back to find out, and hopes nobody falls for it.
"(The City of San Bernardino is) keeping track of all the people who've been called to see where the calls are being made," Arnold said. "Hopefully they can find out who's doing this and shut them down."
Anyone who has questions about Medicare or Medical can visit www.calmediconnect.org or call 844-580-7272.