Originally created 08/21/05

Residents warned to beware of telephone scams



When Ellora Montgomery answered her phone, she did not recognize the voice on the other end. The anonymous female caller claimed to be a representative from Medicaid.

The caller asked whether she could come to Mrs. Montgomery's home in Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, S.C., to explain changes in her Medicaid policy and sell her a booklet outlining the new benefits.

"The first thing I said was, this was a scam," Mrs. Montgomery said of the Aug. 9 telephone call. "Then she hung up."

Mrs. Montgomery said she didn't know how the caller knew her name and phone number, but she did not give her any personal or financial information.

"I don't know what they might have had on me, and it makes me a bit nervous," she said.

Mrs. Montgomery said this is the first time she's received such a call, but a friend's similar experience prompted her to take action.

"I had a very dear friend who was a victim of a scam," Mrs. Montgomery said. "It made me so furious that I didn't want anyone else subjected to this."

Mrs. Montgomery reported her incident to the McCormick County Sheriff's Office.

"She did the right thing," McCormick County Chief Deputy Claude Gable said. "If there's any possible scam going around then we want to know about it."

Deputy Gable said this is the first phone scam reported in McCormick County in months involving health care.

According to a study released by the Federal Trade Commission in February, there were 6,736 fraud and identity theft complaints from South Carolina residents in 2004.

Lt. Michael Frank, of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, urges people who suspect they might have been a target or victim of a phone scam to call a law enforcement agency.

"We do have an investigator who concentrates on financial crime and fraud," Lt. Frank said. "Sometimes these things come from outside of the country. It happens over the phone and on the Internet as well. It's hard to pinpoint where they're coming from."

Reach Billy Byler at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

Getting informed



The Federal Trade Commission's Web site, www.ftc.gov, offers free booklets containing information on ways to avoid telephone scams and identity theft. The booklets also can be obtained by calling (877) ID-THEFT.