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Paso Robles woman loses thousands of dollars to Social Security phone scam

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Aug 07, 2019

A Paso Robles woman is warning others after losing her life savings in a Social Security phone scam.

It's a scam authorities say is becoming all too common.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says people across the U.S. have lost more than $10 million in the last year alone from these Social Security phone scams and while there are warning signs, Lina Callery says the scammers used the fear of jail to get her to give over her money.

Callery was about to leave for work Monday morning when someone called saying her Social Security number was involved in a money laundering scheme and if she hung up, she could go to jail.

"I kind of freaked out not thinking this was a scam, which I wish I did think that. They had asked me to give them the Paso Robles Police Department's phone number and when I did that they said, don't answer the phone unless it's this number," she explained.

Callery says the scammers replicated the number for the Paso Robles Police Department and called her back with someone pretending to be an officer telling her to take out her money and create a digital wallet on Target gift cards.

"If I pulled out the money from the bank they would put it in that wallet and two gentleman would come tomorrow and write me a check and take me to the bank and open an account and I could get back to my life," Callery said.

But no one ever came and Callery realized she made a mistake worth $50,000.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says anyone asking for gift cards or wire transfers over the phone is a major red flag.

"That's not a method of payment that we would ever ask for, especially over the phone. Any type of payment issue should be done in person or you should get some notification by mail," said Brandy Swain, Crime Prevention Specialist for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office adds that if law enforcement ever had to get ahold of you, they would contact you by mail. They say you can always call them to find out if, in fact, you think you have a suspicious warrant out for your arrest.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says these crimes are extremely difficult to prosecute because gift cards and wire transfers are hard to trace.

It's unknown at this time if the woman will be able to get her money back.