A warning against phone scams

  • Published
  • By Capt. Michael J. Bruzik
  • 377 Air Base Wing Legal Office

Phone-based financial scams have recently grown as a major problem affecting many people. It is important for everyone to be aware of how these scams work and the steps that can be taken to avoid them.

One very common phone scam involves callers pretending to represent the Social Security Administration. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this scam was reported by more than 35,000 people in 2018 alone and resulted in a loss of $10 million.

The scam begins with an unrecognized caller who identifies themselves as working for the Social Security Administration. The caller will often suggest that the person receiving the call has had suspicious activity linked to their social security number. The caller will then disclose the recipient’s social security number, birthdate, and home address to give the appearance of legitimacy.  After this, the recipient is instructed to place their funds onto a gift card purchased at a retail store. The scammer will claim that the recipient must do this in order to protect their money, and then instruct the recipient to give them the gift card number so that the funds can be placed in a secure account.

This is, of course, a lie. Once the scammers have the card number they can withdraw the funds into their own personal account, stealing from the victim. The method of using a gift card makes it very challenging for the victim to trace the money or retrieve it. Moreover, many of these scammers operate outside of the U.S. which hinders the ability of law enforcement to investigate the matter.

Fortunately, being aware of this scam is all it takes to keep from becoming a victim.  Always remember that the Social Security Administration, IRS or any other government agency will not contact you by phone.

Additionally, no legitimate organization will EVER ask you to transfer funds through a gift card.  Also, no collection action can be initiated through a phone call.

In the event you receive a call from an unknown number pretending to be from the Social Security Administration, the very best thing you can do is simply hang up. Never convey any of your personal information during one of these calls.

If someone you know becomes a victim of this scam, immediate steps should be taken to try and cancel the transfer. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission or your local law enforcement agency to report the fraud.

Should you receive a correspondence by mail that you are unsure of, you can always make an appointment with the Base Legal Office for professional guidance by calling 505-846-4217.