By RACHEL C. DOVE
EAST WILLIAMSON - The sharp wits of a Mingo County senior citizen saved herself financial woes, and she is hoping her experience may spare others the same fate as well.
Frances Crawford, a well-respected member of the Williamson community is still, as someone jokingly said during a recent city event that she attended, “one smart cookie.”
These life-learned traits of looking before she leaps, added to the practice of being extra cautious about who you trust possible prevented the retired senior from having her bank account depleted by a scam centered on the older generation.
Crawford received a phone call Monday afternoon that appeared on her caller I.D. as a “private caller.” After answering, the caller who spoke with a strong, foreign accent and broken English, proceeded to inform her that she, along with all other West Virginia senior citizens, would be the recipients of a “free” insurance card to assist with their medical bills.
Crawford thoroughly questioned the caller, telling him she had not heard anything about such an offer in the media, and felt this was not legitimate. The caller proceeded to ignore her disbeliefs, and instead began reading to her the bank routing number off of her Community Trust checking account.
Crawford was shocked and concerned when she realized the numbers he read to her were correct. The unidentified male then instructed her to read him the numerals on her account that follow the routing number, saying he needed to verify her identity and age for the free insurance program.
Crawford quickly refused, telling the caller she was in no way releasing any of her personal banking information to him. He immediately connected her with another party who claimed to be the caller’s supervisor, and then on to yet another individual who claimed to be the manager. The two men attempted to encourage and persuade Crawford to release her information, to which she replied a firm “no.”
She said that she hung up on the caller, and that he telephoned her again. Crawford contacted her bank, the Community Trust branch in Williamson, and spoke with President Moses Pinson and relayed the information to him. He assured her all precautions necessary would be taken to prevent any unauthorized withdrawals from her account, and said he was contacting other local banks with his company to also warn them of the scam.
“I just want to get the word out so everyone will be aware of this, because I’m sure I won’t be the only one who gets one of these calls,” said Crawford. “They try to be very convincing, and with the high costs of medical insurance, prescription medications and other financial burdens a lot of our area seniors face, this would sound like a really good deal.
“They keep emphasizing that it’s free, and there’s going to be a few folks who might fall for it. Before they realize it’s a scam, their bank accounts could be drained.”
Crawford laughed and said the age-old saying of “if it’s sounds too good to be true – then it probably is”, definitely rings true in this circumstance.
“I just hope everyone stays on their toes and use extreme caution before giving out any of their personal information.”
If you or a family member has received a call similar to this, you are encouraged to contact a city or county law enforcement agency where you live, or the Williamson Detachment of the West Virginia State Police at 304-235-6000, and Pikeville Post 9 of the Kentucky State Police at 606-433-7711. It would also be wise to speak with your financial institution and instruct them to not allow any unauthorized withdrawals from your bank accounts.
“You can’t be too cautious nowadays,” said Crawford. “There are people out there just waiting to take advantage of senior citizens. We have to be smarter than them, and stay a step ahead.”