This happened to a friend of mine. A story of family and love:
The first thing out of her mouth was “Mr. [name redacted] your Mother is fine.” Whoa.
And to think, I almost didn’t take the phone call. I get telemarketers calling me all the time and it seems that no matter how many times I block a number, “Rachel from card services” uses another one. So, this afternoon when I saw “PRIVATE NUMBER”, I thought, “Here we go again”. But then “Connie” from the Fort Atkinson Hospital came on the line.
I was a bit confused by the call, but Connie walked me through the situation. She gave me my Mom’s full name, her maiden name and address. She then gave me my full name and current address and asked me if all the information was correct. I told her it was. After Connie verified that I was, in fact, my Mom’s son, she told me in a calm tone that my Mom was in the Emergency room and that they needed some information from me before they could begin treatment.
I asked what was wrong with her, and Connie told me that due to privacy laws, she couldn’t be specific on the phone. I pressed her for an answer, and Connie relented, telling me that “she is dehydrated.”
I took a moment to let that sink in, and replied: “Dehydrated? That would make sense since she was cremated in 2006.” <<click>>
This is a rather benign form of phishing where the caller was trying to confirm personal information. Other forms of this scam can be more frightening.
How to Protect Yourself From an Emergency Scam
1. Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story.
2. Check out the story with other family and friends. Call phone numbers that you know to be genuine (not the number provided by the caller).
3. Ask questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly.
4. Know what you and your family members are sharing online. Use privacy settings to limit what you share and encourage others to do the same.
5. Check bbb.org/scam for more advice and to report a scam.
If you believe you’ve responded to a scam, file a complaint with the FTC and your State Attorney General .