The Investigators: What to do if someone threatens that your Social Security number, benefits are being suspended

Scammers calling Mid-Southerners more than ever during Pandemic

The Investigators: Curbing social security scam calls

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Sherry Wilburn received a call last week that put her on high alert.

“The woman said my bank account had been frozen and that she was from the social security department,” said Wilburn.

Wilburn says the woman on the other end of the line told her a rental car was found in her name in El Paso, Texas.

“She just kept talking and telling me that I was being seized for millions of dollars because of all the cocaine and drugs that was in this car,” she said.

“What were you thinking when you were hearing this?” Asked The Investigators.

“That’s impossible. I haven’t been to Texas and I certainly never lived there,” said Wilburn.

Concerned someone had stolen her identity, Wilburn stayed on her landline and picked up her iPhone.

“I told Siri to call Suntrust Bank and she immediately shut up whenever I did that,” she said.

Wilburn says her bank account was just fine and there was no car full of drugs in her name.

She reported the incident to the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.

“The vast majority of people don’t fall for it but the crooks rely on some peoples' emotions outrunning their common sense,” said Randy Hutchinson is President of the Mid-South BBB.

He, too, was recently contacted by social security scammers.

“My social security number had been found on documents involved in money laundering, drug smuggling, FBI is involved, warrants have been filed for my arrest, seizure of my bank account,” he told The Investigators. "There’s a lot of words in that story that are going to scare a whole heck of a lot of people.

According to Hutchinson, most of the information scammers use comes from data breaches sold on the dark web.

That’s why many scammers know where you are and use spoof numbers to make the call appear local.

“One of the fellas actually said he was with the Memphis Police Department and 'Memphis Police Department showed up on my caller ID," he said.

That’s why you can’t always trust your caller ID, says the Federal Trade Commission.

  • Know your social security number is not about to be suspended
  • Don’t verify your social security number or other personal information to anyone who calls out of the blue
  • The Social Security Administration will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash or put money on gift cards.

“Anytime you’re asked to do that it’s a scam,” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson says the Mid-South BBB has received 118 social security scam reports so far this year with a total loss of $1,979.95.

That’s a massive increase from this time last year when it had received 41 reports from Mid-Southerners with a loss of $700.

What should you do if you get a call from a Social Security impersonator?

If you don’t recognize the number calling you, don’t answer. If you do answer, and hear a robocall, hang up immediately.

Don’t follow any prompts to talk to someone or attempt to be placed on a Do Not Call list - this will only verify to the scammer that they have a working number.

Each report is verified and placed in its online Scam Tracker tool so others can search by scam type or location to know what to watch out for in their area.

A Mid-Southerner wrote the BBB that she lost $800.

“This scammer will call and say there is fraudulent activity going on with your social security number in another state,” the victim wrote. "They will tell you you need to go withdraw all your money from your account and they will state that you are being investigated by the FBI and that you can not hang up the phone until the process is done.”

After Wilburn received that one scammer’s call, she got another the same day.

Wilburn immediately hung up.

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