KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A 6 On Your Side viewer wanted to share how easy it is to disclose personal information to a perfect stranger who calls on the phone. The callers are smooth talkers, and if you are not alert it is easy to fall for into their trap.
Ramona Bell, who retired after 27 years as a transportation manager with the U.S. Postal Service, considers herself savvy as to the ways of the world and says it's difficult to have the wool pulled over her eyes, or so she thought.
The call she received was about Medicare coverage, sort of.
"[The caller] said, 'We're working, calling all senior citizens because we have a medical card that we need to send to you. We're working in conjunction with Medicare to help you offset your expenses,'" Bell explained.
"I thought, 'Well, it's possible.' And he repeated this several times, 'I have to verify your identity before we can mail the medical card to you.' He said 'I have to make sure you are the person that I am supposed to send the card to.' he asked me the name of my bank. I thought, that's no big deal. I don't care who know where I bank. So I told him."
However, learning your bank's name is a big deal to smooth sounding, slick con artists. It is their first step to accessing your personal account.
The next step fooled Bell.
"He said, 'I'm going to read your routing number of the bank to you., so you know that I'm legitimate.' And he did," said Bell. "He said check it and make sure they are the right numbers. I checked it, everything was right. He said, 'Now will you please read the next series of numbers so I will know you are who you're supposed to be.' Foolishly I did."
At that point, Mrs. Bell disclosed her personal bank account numbers, opening up her checking account to this scammer who was likely working from the other side of the world.
"But as soon as I did it, red flags started to go up. We are always cautioned, do not give out information on the telephone, and I did," she said.
Bell then took action.
"I went to my bank. I got there five minutes before closing time and closed the account out," Bell said.
So, the question is how does this scam work?
The man asked Mrs. Bell the name of her bank. Armed with that simple information, all he had to do was go online, put in the bank's name and, up pops the routing numbers of any bank.
Remember, these guys are pros.
"If they ask you for any kind of information, don't fall for it," said Bell. "Someone asked me, 'What have you lost?' I said, 'My pride and some time, because it is time consuming to close an account.' I knew better. I knew better. I fell for it anyway. So if I fell for it, anybody else can."