Bamboozled July 7, 2016: Don’t fall for these scams asking for your Social Security number

Con artists will do whatever they can to get your money.

Impersonations are a big threat to unsuspecting consumers.

We’ve seen the IRS scam blossom as crooks pretending to be law enforcement call taxpayers with threats of arrest if tax debts aren’t paid immediately.

Scammers impersonate companies too.

Last month, a homeowner received a call from someone who said they were from CVS. The caller said CVS was trying to fill his prescription and needed his Social Security number.

The homeowner didn’t fall for it. He’s not even a CVS customer, reports said.

But what if he was a customer? Would he have given his private information over the phone?

We want to make sure Bamboozled readers know what to expect when they get a call from a legitimate company. Would it ever ask you for your Social Security number or other private information?

Here’s what we learned.

CVS Pharmacy

We started with CVS.

“When a CVS Pharmacy calls a patient regarding a prescription, the pharmacy uses the preferred contact number that the patient has provided us,” said Mike DeAngelis of CVS Health. “We validate the patient’s identity before discussing their prescriptions by asking for name and date of birth to ensure it matches our records.”

DeAngelis said CVS would never ask a customer to provide any type of financial information or a Social Security number.

If someone has a concern about whether a call is legitimate, he recommends they hang up and call their pharmacy directly to confirm it was CVS placing the call.

Rite Aid

Rite Aid does not require a Social Security number to fill a prescription, spokeswoman Ashley Flower said.

“In limited situations for certain products, such as controlled medications, state regulations may require additional information to be collected, including Social Security number or a driver’s license number,” Flower said.

She said in order to protect patient privacy, the month and day of birth is requested when picking up prescriptions and may also be requested during phone outreach.

If you ever receive a suspicious call from someone identifying themselves as a Rite Aid rep, Flower said, you should not provide any information. Instead, contact your local Rite Aid pharmacy with any questions about prescriptions and contact the local authorities.

JCP&L

JCP&L said it has a dedicated scam website to keep customers informed about scams and to tell them what to do should something happen.

“Our overriding advice to customers: we will never call and demand payment with any type of pre-paid debit card,” said spokesman Ron Morano. “Nor will we call and say you must pay immediately or be shut off.”

Morano said if a customer receives a call from someone claiming to be from JCP&L, they should hang up and call the company directly. And if you suspect fraud, you should call law enforcement authorities, he said.

You can learn more about scams from the company’s website here.

PSE&G

PSE&G said it gets a steady stream of phone scam reports, and in the past year, there were spikes in reports during October, December and May.

The company said it regularly warns customers about scams via bill messages, bill inserts and social media.

Spokeswoman Brooke Houston said scams can target anyone, but they tend to more often target small business customers because they typically have larger bills than residential customers but don’t have all of the checks and balances to prevent fraud that a large business would have.

How to stop annoying robocalls, spam and junk mail

How to stop annoying robocalls, spam and junk mail

Resources to help you eliminate or cut back on robocalls, junk mail and spam emails.

She said phone scammers use scare tactics, threatening to terminate service if the bill is not paid immediately through pre-paid debit cards.

“PSE&G offers a number of payment options, and would never require a customer to use a pre-paid debit card,” Houston said. “Before terminating service, customers are alerted in a number of ways: messages on their bill, letters and phone calls.”

She said if PSE&G calls a customer, the employee will be able to provide the customer their account number, address and account balance.

“Perhaps most importantly, we can provide the last four digits of their Social Security number,” she said, noting the company would never call a customer and ask for a credit card number.

“When a customer is moving or setting up new service, we do require a Social Security number,” she said. “After it is entered into our system, the Social Security number is masked – so our customer service representatives can only see the last four digits.”

When in doubt, she urges customers to hang up and call the number listed a bill.

Customers can also can call PSE&G and place a password on their account to prevent any unauthorized access.

AT&T

AT&T said it provides scam tips with a website called Digital You.

“AT&T launched Digital You more than a year ago as a free public education initiative offering research-based materials about how to use devices safely and effectively for parents, youth, seniors, people with disabilities, and others, with key information in Spanish,” said spokeswoman Ellen Webner.

She said AT&T will generally not call customers and ask for personal information, but there are times it may. If it does, AT&T would provide a name and a number for the customer to call to confirm it’s an AT&T rep, Webner said.

Bamboozled recommends you not use the number any caller gives you, but instead use the phone number found on your bill — just to be safe.

Webner said if a customer is approached by a scam artist, they should contact the company immediately or visit one of the company-owned stores.

VERIZON

Scam callers have impersonated Verizon for years now, said spokesman Andrew Testa.

To combat this, he said, Verizon has dedicated resources to investigate, track, and, where possible, resolve issues that occur as a result of scams. The company lets consumers know about scams through news releases, bill inserts and a new page on its corporate website.

He said a classic example of the impersonation scam — which targeted Verizon several years ago — is when a person claiming to be a Verizon rep calls and says you overpaid your last phone bill. To process your refund check, the rep says, you need to provide some information, which may include your Social Security number.

Testa said you should always be suspicious, ask questions and ask for a callback number.

“If you ever overpay your local phone bill, major telecom companies simply apply it automatically to your next bill,” he said. “There’s no need to call you and process a refund.”

He said Verizon will never call to ask you to update your personal information over the phone.

Verizon also offers these resources to protect from fraud and identity theft:

What you should do

If someone calls and says you owe money or asks for personal information, find out who the caller says he represents.

Then hang up.

You can call the number you have for the company — it can be found on your bill — and find out if the call was legit.

If the call is from a legitimate company, they’ll be sure to call again or leave you a message. If you never answer the phone, it will try to reach you by mail.

If you receive a scam call, be sure to tell the company and file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller atBamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. FindBamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.