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Social Security phone scam targets Central Coast residents

Posted: 1:16 PM, May 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-17 21:20:27-04

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office recently received reports warning of a county-wide phone scam regarding Social Security.

According to the sheriff’s office, residents have lost thousands of dollars to these con artists. One resident reported losing $11,000 just last week.

This reported Social Security scam involves callers claiming to be with the Social Security Administration. They often even provide a name and badge number. The caller then claims the victim’s Social Security number has been compromised and connected to some criminal activity.

One instance of this scam involved a victim who was informed that her Social Security number was found in a car in Texas, along with some drugs and bloodstains. The caller claimed the victim’s bank account was in danger and that the victim must quickly go to the bank, take out the money, and put into gift cards.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office says the call usually begins as a recorded phone call that states your Social Security number has been suspended and you will lose all of your benefits. The recording then prompts the receiver of the call to press a number to be connected to a live person. If you do not respond, the caller will then threaten to permanently block your Social Security number or seize your bank accounts. Furthermore, a scammer can duplicate the actual phone number of the Social Security Administration by using a special application or computer-driven program.

The sheriff’s office provided some tips for avoiding this scam:

  • 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
  • You do not have to verify your Social Security number to anyone who initiates a call with you
  • Never give any part of your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card number to anyone who contacts you
  • If you are concerned the call may be a scam, hang up immediately; the Social Security Administration’s real phone number is (800) 772-1213
  • The best practice is to only give personal identification if you initiate the call first and have verified the phone number

In addition, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said they continue to see a scam where the caller poses as a sheriff’s deputy and tells receiver there is a bench warrant issued for their arrest because they did not show up for jury duty. If you receive any phone call where you are being asked for money or identifying information, you should immediately hang up and call the sheriff’s office or any other law enforcement agency where the caller claims to be calling from to verify the information. The sheriff’s office also wants to remind residents that their agency does not call residents over the phone to notify them of a warrant and they do not take payments of any kind over the phone.

To report phone scams, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint .