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How scammers got a victim's Social Security number

The call rattled the 69-year-old man.

“Your Social Security number has been linked to a federal investigation into money laundering and drug smuggling,” said the woman on the other end of the line, who identified herself as a Social Security official.

The Hampshire County resident, who asked not to be identified, realized shortly that the call was a scam – but not before he had given out his Social Security number.

“It got me shook up pretty quick,” he said, “and it takes a lot to shake an old Marine.”

He’s not alone.

A phone scam is sweeping through the area using the threat of suspended or compromised Social Security numbers, the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office reports.

“The best thing you can do is hang up on these scammers,” Chief Deputy Nathan Sions said. “Do not give these callers any information.”

The victim who talked to the Review said he realized his mistake and took steps to protect himself.

He “locked” his identity with the nation’s 3 leading credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – meaning nobody can even run a credit report on him. He alerted his bank and pension providers as well.  

Voicemail at the Social Security Administration – “It’s hard to talk to anyone live there,” he said – directed him to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. That’s something the sheriff’s office recommends as well.

The FTC’s toll-free number is 877-382-4357.

The call to the former Marine came from a telephone exchange in upstate New York, an area 50 miles west of Albany, the state capital.

The call caught him off guard as he stood in line to check out at Lowe’s.

“They’re telling me all this stuff about a car registered to my name in El Paso had been confiscated and they found bank statements with my name on them,” he recalled. “They said the Social Security Administration was working with drug task force on a case against me and before I would be locked up I needed to address this.”

Before much longer, the caller had his Social Security number – and the call disconnected. He called back a couple of times to try to make sure everything was in order, only to have the call disconnected each time.

That’s when he realized he had been scammed.

“I thought I was smarter than that,” he said.

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